Although most workers in San Diego are aware of the cave-in risks linked to trench work, other hazards exist of which they might not be aware. Two workers who were members of a trench-digging crew last summer might have taken precautions to prevent workplace injuries in the event of a cave-in. It appears they were unprepared for the risk of contracting Coccidioidomycosis -- also known as Valley Fever. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health recently issued citations for safety violations to the underground construction company that employed the workers.
Valley Fever is an occupational disease that is caused by the inhalation of harmful spores that become airborne during activities that disturb the soil. Employers must take precautions to limit the amount of dust, and provide workers with respiratory protection. Cal/OSHA investigators determined that the employer made no effort to mitigate potential health concerns when workers had to dig trenches to gain access to gas lines in counties known to pose Valley Fever risks.
The two workers were admitted to a hospital after they developed flu-like symptoms. They were diagnosed with Coccidioidomycosis caused by the fungal spores. The consequences of severe cases of Valley Fever can include serious damage to the lungs. The safety agency found that the employer disregarded all the tips and safety guidelines to limit exposure.
To avoid serious lung problems, San Diego workers are advised to see a doctor if they feel fatigued, short of breath and feverish after being exposed to dust. The California workers' compensation insurance program will likely cover the doctors' bills and hospital fees. With the assistance of an experienced workers' comp attorney, they can increase their chances of receiving maximum wage replacement benefits for lost workdays and other applicable benefits after any workplace injuries or illnesses.