Cal/OSHA: Companies Exposed Workers to Valley Fever

Nov. 22, 2017
A microscopic fungus present in the soils of California’s Central Valley causes the illness.

Six California companies are facing $241,950 in fines after multiple workers contracted Valley Fever on a job site in Monterey County.

The employers, one contractor and five subcontractors, failed to control worker exposure to contaminated dust at a solar project construction site in Cholame Hills, according to Cal/OSHA.

“Employers who work in areas endemic to Valley Fever must take preventative measures to protect workers who may be exposed,” said Juliann Sum, Cal/OSHA chief, in a statement.

Valley Fever is caused by Coccidioides immitis, a microscopic fungus that lives in 2- to 12-in. of soil in the state. Once the soil is disturbed, spores become airborne and, as a result, can be inhaled, according to the agency.

The following employers did not provide and ensure use of respiratory protection to prevent exposure: McCarthy Building Companies Inc., Papich Construction Inc., Granite Construction Inc., Dudek, Sachs Electric Co. and Althouse and Meade Inc. The agency listed McCarthy as the general contractor. The other companies were noted as subcontractors.

Papich Construction Inc. previously was cited for the same violations in 2013.

Cal/OSHA provides the following suggestions about preventing Valley Fever:

  • Determine if a worksite is in an area where fungal spores likely are to be present.
  • Adopt site plans and work practices that minimize the disturbance of soil and maximize ground cover.
  • Use water, appropriate soil stabilizers and/or re-vegetation to reduce airborne dust.
  • Limit workers’ exposure to outdoor dust in disease-endemic areas by (1) providing air-conditioned cabs for vehicles that generate dust and making sure workers keep windows and vents closed, (2) suspending work during heavy winds, and (3) providing sleeping quarters, if applicable, away from sources of dust.
  • When exposure to dust is unavoidable, provide approved respiratory protection to filter particles.
  • Train supervisors and workers in how to recognize symptoms of Valley Fever and minimize exposure.

More information about the violations can be found at the Cal/OSHA web site.

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