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Temporary disability can follow exposure to Valley Fever fungus

Workers in the Central Valley of California are at risk of contracting Valley Fever. The illness is caused by inhalation of microscopic fungus spores, Coccidioides immitis. The fungus is present in this soil of this area, and it becomes airborne when the soil is disturbed. Victims of this illness may suffer temporary disability.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health recently fined a contractor and five subcontractors for failure to protect employees from exposure to this hazard. These companies were all involved in a solar project in a location that is endemic to this illness. The safety agency prescribes safety measures to prevent exposure.

Workers in areas known for the presence of fungal spores must be provided with respirators. As a precaution, soil disturbance must be minimized, and water or other measures must be used to stabilize soil. Dust producing vehicles must have air conditioners, and vehicle windows must be kept closed. Sleeping areas must be away from dust sources, and work must stop during times of high winds.

Employees who were not protected from exposure and then contracted Valley Fever will be entitled to pursue financial assistance. They may file benefits claims with the California workers' compensation insurance system. Not only will they likely receive compensation to cover their medical expenses but also wage replacement packages to cover a percentage of lost income for temporary disability. The claims process can be a challenge, and some Valley Fever victims choose to seek the help of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to navigate it for them.

Source: ehstoday.com, "Cal/OSHA: Companies Exposed Workers to Valley Fever", Stefanie Valentic, Nov. 22, 2017

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