Remind your Work Comp clients Valley Fever training is required in 11 California counties
- California law now requires certain employers such as those in construction to offer Valley Fever training.
- Valley Fever is caused by a fungus that lives in the top layer of soil and can result in mild to severe illness.
- The law applies to 11 counties primarily in Central California, but may extend to others.
Certain California employers, such as construction firms, must now offer Valley Fever training to employees, discussing risks and how to control them. Right now, the amendment to the California Labor Code only applies to employers in 11 counties in the Central Valley region: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Monterey, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties. Producers, if you have Core Commercial or Workers Compensation clients in these areas, please share this article with them.
It applies to employers in the 11 counties involved in the construction, alteration, painting, repairing, construction maintenance, renovation, removal, or wrecking of any fixed structure or its parts, said an EHS Daily Advisor article. However, it may expand to other counties as the disease spreads.
What is Valley Fever?
Valley Fever crops up (no pun intended) throughout the Southwest U.S, predominantly in Arizona and Central California. Cases have been reported in California, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. It’s most prevalent in industries where employees have direct contact with the land: agriculture, roadwork, excavation and construction. That’s because it’s caused by a microscopic fungus, Coccidioides immitis, which lives in the top two to 12 inches of arid soil. When the ground is disturbed by wind, farming, construction or other movement, these fungal spores are released into the air and can be inhaled, infecting the lungs and other parts of the body via the bloodstream. Open cuts or scrapes can absorb the spores, causing a skin infection.
Many people exposed to the fungus never have symptoms. Others may have flu-like symptoms that typically go away after weeks to months. They typically appear 1-3 weeks after breathing the spores. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), symptoms can include
- Shortness of breath
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches or joint pain
- Rash on upper body or legs
UC Davis’ health website says that 60 percent of those exposed don’t develop symptoms – or have minor flu-like symptoms that resolve on their own. It’s not contagious, but incidence is growing: About 150,000 people contract Valley Fever annually.
What must Valley Fever training include?
Training needs to happen now – and then annually – for all employees whose work exposes them to substantial dust disturbance. New hire Valley Fever training is also required. EHS’s article says the training must cover:
- What Valley Fever is and how it is contracted.
- Areas, environmental conditions and types of work that pose high risk of contracting Valley Fever.
- Personal factors that put employees at higher risk of infection or disease development, such as pregnancy, diabetes, a compromised immune system due to conditions such as 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.
- Personal and environmental exposure prevention methods such as
- Water-based dust suppression
- Good hygiene practices when skin and clothing is soiled by dust
- Avoiding contamination of drinks and food
- Working upwind from dusty areas when feasible
- Wet cleaning dusty equipment when feasible
- Wearing a respirator when exposure to dust is unavoidable
- The importance of early detection, diagnosis and treatment to prevent the disease from progressing (the medication’s effectiveness is greatest in the early stages of the disease)
- Recognizing common signs and symptoms including cough, fatigue, fever, headache, joint pain or muscle aches, rash on upper body or legs, shortness of breath and flu-like symptoms that linger longer than usual
- The importance of reporting symptoms to the employer and seeking prompt medical attention from a physician for appropriate diagnosis and treatment
- Prognosis and common treatment for Valley Fever
Provide your clients with these various resources for use in Valley Fever training – risks, symptoms and treatment – here: