A case of pulmonary fibrosis caused by Valley Fever. CDC photo
Written by The Business Journal Staff
Cal/OSHA has cited a Bay Area construction company after two of its employees became ill with Valley Fever after digging trenches in the Central Valley.
Underground Construction Co., Inc. of Benicia tasked the workers with digging trenches up to 5 1/2-feet deep to access gas pipelines for maintenance in Kings, Fresno and Merced counties, according to Cal/OSHA.
Exposure to Valley Fever could’ve occurred at one of the three sites, where dust was not controlled and workers did not wear any respiratory protection, according to a news release.
“When soil is disturbed by activities such as digging, driving, or high winds, Valley Fever spores can become airborne and potentially be inhaled,” stated Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Without the proper training, protection and mitigation procedures, workers are likely to be exposed and get sick.”
Cal/OSHA was notified in September 2018 that the employees were hospitalized after being diagnosed with Valley Fever, also known as Coccidioidomycosis. Symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu and include fatigue, shortness of breath and fever. Severe cases can cause serious lung problems.
Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that Underground Construction Co., Inc. did not evaluate the hazard of performing digging work in areas known to contain the coccidioides fungal spores. Cal/OSHA issued three citations to the employer with $27,000 in proposed penalties.
Since 2017, Cal/OSHA has cited 12 businesses for work-related Valley Fever.