Construction workers perform some of the most physically demanding jobs on a daily basis. Each task has its own set of potential dangers. However, there is a difference between hazardous working conditions that are part of the job and those that could have been prevented. Recently, six construction companies involved in the California Flats Solar Solar Project in Monterey were fined $241,950 by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health for exposing their workers to valley fever. As a result, several construction workers were hospitalized for this serious respiratory disease caused by a fungus that grows in the soil throughout the Southwestern United States.
The Importance of Whistleblowers and California Workers’ Compensation Cases
Like many cases that involve injured and sick workers, the construction companies allowed their employees to work in dangerous conditions. Unfortunately, no action was taken against the companies until a whistleblower reported the incidents while working on the California Flats Solar Project. The goal of the project is to convert 2,900 acres of farmland in the Cholame Hills into an energy field that would provide power for 100,000 homes each year.
California’s OSHA has already started its investigation. According to Cal/OSHA spokesman Erika Monterroza, hundreds of workers may have been exposed to the fungus that causes valley fever. However, the organization would not confirm the exact amount of affected workers. McCarthy Building Companies Inc. along with Althouse & Meade Inc., Sachs Electric Company, Papich Construction Company, and Dude were among the subcontractors fined for health and safety violations. The penalties ranged from $9,900 to $68,900 for a variety of violations including:
- Not properly enforcing employees to wear respiratory masks
- Failure to properly train to train workers to use respirators
- Failure to implement an illness and injury prevention program
The state is continuing to crack down on subcontractors in the wake of increased numbers of valley fever cases. According to the California Department of Public Health, the amount of workers diagnosed with valley fever increased 34 percent in the past year. If the present rate continues, it is expected to be the worst year ever for reported cases. Due to the history of valley fever cases in the area, subcontractors should have been aware of the problem and made appropriate preparations.
What Is Valley Fever?
Valley fever is the common named used for the medical condition known as Coccidioidomycosis. The illness is contracted simply by inhaling fungus that grows in desert climates. Although 60 percent of people diagnosed suffer do not suffer from any noticeable symptoms, many suffer from severe flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever and fatigue that can last for months.
Has Your Workers’ Compensation Claim Been Underpaid or Denied? The Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Koszdin, Fields & Sherry Can Help
A serious illness caused by harmful working conditions can be devastating. It can force employees to miss significant time from work and even jeopardize their careers. Injured and sick employees depend on workers’ compensation benefits to account for the loss of income. The Los Angeles workers’ comp attorneys at Koszdin, Fields & Sherry utilize an aggressive and comprehensive approach to protect the rights of injured workers and placing them in the best position to succeed. To learn more, contact our law office and schedule a no-cost initial consultation to discuss your case.