Cal/OSHA Cites Construction Company After Workers Contract Valley Fever

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 recently announced it has issued serious health and safety citations to Underground Construction Co., Inc. of Benicia, Calif., after two of its employees contracted Valley Fever. The workers were exposed to the fungal disease while using hand tools to dig trenches in Kings, Fresno, and Merced counties—areas where the soil is known to contain harmful spores that cause the infection. Since 2017, Cal/OSHA has cited 12 businesses for work-related Valley Fever exposures.

"When soil is disturbed by activities such as digging, driving, or high winds, Valley Fever spores can become airborne and potentially be inhaled," said 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.

The workers who became sick were tasked with digging trenches up to 5½ feet deep to allow access to gas pipelines for maintenance. Dust was not controlled, and the workers did not wear any respiratory protection, according to the agency's news release on the case. It said exposure to the disease could have occurred in any one of the three counties where the fungal spores are known to be endemic.

Cal/OSHA's investigation found Underground Construction Co., Inc. did not evaluate the hazard of performing digging work in areas known to contain the coccidioides fungal spores, did not suppress or control harmful dusts, and failed to provide employees with respiratory protection. Cal/OSHA issued three citations to the employer with $27,000 in proposed penalties.

The agency's tips for reducing the risk of Valley Fever exposure include these:

  • Determine whether a work site is in an area where fungal spores are likely 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 on how to recognize symptoms of Valley Fever and minimize exposure.

Download Center

  • Hand Safety Program

    Hand injuries are the #1 preventable industrial accident worldwide. In REThinking Hand Safety, the most comprehensive book on hand safety, you'll learn how top companies have reduced hand injuries by up to 90% and what the most successful hand safety programs have in common. Get your free copy today!

  • Free 1-on-1 Consultations

    Is your company ready to reduce hand injuries? Schedule a free meeting with a Superior Glove hand safety expert and learn how to reduce hand injuries, lower PPE costs, and increase worker productivity. Our 1-on-1 consultations offer personalized advice and recommendations for your specific needs and concerns.

  • Glove 101 Guide

    Choosing the right safety gloves for your workers can be a daunting task. That’s where some basic knowledge of gloves can really come in handy! In this comprehensive guide you’ll find key information you need to know about safety gloves from types of gloves and materials to additives, treatments, safety standards, and more.

  • Sample Program

    Find the right safety gloves for your team and try before you buy—in just 3 easy steps! Simply add the products you want to try to your sample box, complete the sample request form, and wait for your samples to arrive at no cost to you.

  • Water Protection Product Guide

    Find the right safety gloves for your workers that are designed to protect in wet environments. From light and flexible to heavy duty, find the best water-resistant gloves with mechanical protection to safeguard workers.

  • Superior Glove