Valley Fever became a health risk concern for safety authorities in California after workers at solar installations were exposed to fungal spores that caused the illness. Just like any workplace injuries, employers must also protect workers from exposure to occupational diseases. They must control exposure to hazardous materials, and report any incidents of Valley Fever or other occupational illnesses.
Although the Coccidioides immitis fungus is likely to be present in the soil of the Central Valley, the microscopic spores can be present in several other areas in California. Any workers whose activities involve jobs that disturb the soil are at risk because windblown dust can carry the spores and infect workers. Most at-risk workers include excavation, construction and road building crews along with geologists, archaeologists, and those involved in gas and oil extraction, quarrying and mining activities.
The symptoms of Valley Fever are similar to flu symptoms, and for that reason, employees in high-risk areas might not recognize the danger and neglect to report it. Employers must explain the risks to workers, and encourage them to report any flu-like symptoms because Valley Fever can cause severe lung damage if left untreated. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health prescribes measures that employers must take to mitigate the hazard and limit workers’ exposure to the airborne spores.
The California workers’ compensation insurance system treats occupational illnesses in the same way it treats workplace injuries. Legal counsel can help with the navigation of the benefits claim for compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages. If the claim is denied, the attorney can also assist with proving the Valley Fever to be work-related on appeal.