Improper safety precautions that lead to workplace injuries can cause physical damage or illness to employees. Areas of California, especially in the Central Valley, contain microscopic fungal spores in the soil called Coccidioides that can be found two to 12 inches below the ground surface. When disturbed and inhaled while on the job the spores can cause a severe illness called Valley Fever. OSHA considers Valley Fever included in workplace injuries allowing victims to claim workers’ compensation when infected while at work.
There has been a recent increase in workplace injuries, specifically Valley Fever. Reports reveal incidents of the fever having increased by almost 13 percent. The Department of Industrial Relations urges employers to have heightened awareness and to take preventative measures in areas where the ground or soil can be disturbed causing a release of the spores that could be present. Things like wind, digging, driving and grading can expose the spores causing them to go airborne, making employees very sick.
California law legally requires employers to notify California OSHA of serious workplace injuries including Valley Fever. This past fall, OSHA cited six employers for violations leading to the cause of Valley Fever among their workers, half of which did not report to the agency when their employees were hospitalized. An employer may be responsible if they do not take preventative measures in analyzing soil where spores may be present or work to minimize soil disturbance.
Workers who become ill with Valley Fever from employer negligence or lack of inadequate inhalation protection may seek legal assistance with their workers’ compensation claim. The illness can cause financial strain through hospital bills and time away from work. With Valley Fever included in workplace injuries, those who are diagnosed may have rightful access to benefits to help with medical expenses and compensation.
Source: centralvalleybusinesstimes.com, Central Valley Business Times, No author, Oct. 31, 2013