The State of California has enacted a law with respect to Employer Training Programs for employees with respect to Valley Fever.   Valley Fever is a respiratory illness that can be contracted in California.

This article will discuss the Valley Fever, the Training Program, and why it is important for Injured Workers.

What Is Valley Fever?

Per the California Department of Industrial Relations, “Valley Fever is caused by a microscopic fungus known as Coccidioides immitis which lives in the top two to 12 inches of soil in many parts of the state. When soil is disturbed by activities such as digging, driving, or high winds, fungal spores can become airborne and potentially be inhaled by workers.”

Are There are Particular Areas of California in which Valley Fever Occurs?

“While the fungal spores are more likely to be present in the soils of the Central Valley, they may also be present in other areas of California.”  The Counties in which there is the largest presence of Valley Fever are Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Luis Obispo, and Tulare.

Populations with more than 20 cases annually of Valley Fever per 100,000 people are considered highly endemic.”

Is Valley Fever an Occupational Problem?

Yes. The enactment of AB-203, constitutes a recognition by the State of California that Valley Fever is an occupational problem.  While Injured Workers must prove that their contraction of Valley Fever is work-related, the fact that there is educational training concerning the prevention of Valley Fever contraction in the workplace is a positive.  Thus, in the minds of employers, carriers, doctors and judges, there is a likelihood that they should consider industrial causation.

Per the DIR, “[w]hen fungal spores are present, any work activity that disturbs the soil, such as digging, grading or other earth moving operations, or vehicle operation on dirt roads, can cause the spores to become airborne, therefore increasing the risk of Valley Fever. All workers on sites where the fungus is present, and who are exposed to dusty conditions and wind-blown dusts are at increased risk of becoming infected.”

Are There Particular Occupations That Are At Risk for Valley Fever?

Yes.  There are several occupations that have a specific risk. These include agriculture, archeologists, construction workers (and other workers at construction sites, such as road building and excavation crews), geologists, military personnel, wildland firefighters, workers in mining, quarrying, gas, and oil extraction jobs.

What is The Goal of the New State Law?

The Goal of the State Law AB 203, is to “provide effective awareness training on Valley Fever to all employees annually and before an employee begins work that is reasonably anticipated to cause substantial dust disturbance.”

What is the Content of the Training to Be Provided?

Per the new law, the following is to be covered:

”[a]n employer subject to this section pursuant to subdivision (b) shall provide effective awareness training on Valley Fever to all employees by May 1, 2020, and annually by that date thereafter, and before an employee begins work that is reasonably anticipated to cause exposure to substantial dust disturbance.

Substantial dust disturbance means visible airborne dust for a total duration of one hour or more on any day. The training may be included in the employer’s injury and illness prevention program training or as a standalone training program.

The training shall include all of the following topics:

(1) What Valley Fever is and how it is contracted.

(2) High risk areas and types of work and environmental conditions during which the risk of contracting Valley Fever is highest.

(3) Personal risk factors that may create a higher risk for some individuals, including pregnancy, diabetes, having a compromised immune system due to causes including, but not limited to, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), having received an organ transplant, or taking immunosuppressant drugs such as corticosteroids or tumor necrosis factor inhibitors.

(4) Personal and environmental exposure prevention methods that may include, but are not limited to, water-based dust suppression, good hygiene when skin and clothing is soiled by dust, limiting contamination of drinks and food, working upwind from dusty areas when feasible, wet cleaning dusty equipment when feasible, and wearing a respirator when exposure to dust cannot be avoided.

(5) The importance of early detection, diagnosis, and treatment to help prevent the disease from progressing. Early diagnosis and treatment are important because the effectiveness of medication is greatest in early stages of the disease.

(6) Recognizing common signs and symptoms of Valley Fever, which include fatigue, cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache, muscle aches or joint pain, rash on upper body or legs, and symptoms similar to influenza that linger longer than usual.”

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

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