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Builder cited for exposing workers to valley fever

Valley fever

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health of California issued several citations to a construction company after two of its employees contracted valley fever.

Cal/OSHA issued three penalties with proposed penalties of $27,000 to Benicia, California-based Underground Construction Co. Inc. for allegedly failing to protect two workers from being exposed to the fungal disease in counties where the soil is known to contain harmful spores that cause the infection, the agency announced Thursday in a release.

The agency stated that it was notified in September 2018 that the employees had been hospitalized after being diagnosed with Coccidioidomycosis, also known as valley fever, and later learned that they had been using hand tools to dig trenches in Kings, Fresno and Merced counties, where the spores are known to be endemic. The illness can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, fever and sometimes serious lung problems.

According to Cal/OSHA, the workers had been assigned to dig trenches more than 5 feet deep without wearing any respiratory protection. Investigators claimed that the company failed to evaluate the hazard of performing digging work in areas known to contain the fungal spores and did not control harmful dusts or provide employees with protection, and issued three citations with petalites totaling $27,000.

Since 2017, Cal/OSHA has cited 12 businesses for work-related valley fever. 

Underground Construction did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

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