Cal/OSHA has cited six employers $241,950 for workplace safety and health violations after reports that workers contracted Valley Fever on a solar project construction site in Monterey County.
The employers at the California Flats Solar Project in Cholame Hills were cited for serious violations that included failure to control employee exposure to contaminated dust at the worksite, and failure to provide and ensure use of appropriate respiratory protection. One employer, Papich Construction, Inc., was cited in 2013 for some of the same violations.
“Employers who work in areas endemic to Valley Fever must take preventative measures to protect workers who may be exposed,” said Juliann Sum, Chief of Cal/OSHA.
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 digging, driving, or high winds, fungal spores can become airborne and may be inhaled by workers.
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. Cal/OSHA’s Valley Fever informational page www.dir. ca.gov/dosh/valley-fever-home.html provides detailed information with resources for workers and employers.
Tips for reducing the risk of Valley Fever Exposure
- Determine if a worksite 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 in how to recognize symptoms of Valley Fever and minimize exposure.
Employers who have questions or need assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/ OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424.