Cal/OSHA Requires Valley Fever Training

As you may know, AB 203 was approved by Governor Newsom in October 2019. The bill states that certain employers in the construction industry are required to provide their employees with “effective awareness training on Valley Fever”.

This training is required for all employees working on construction jobs where operations are expected to create substantial dust disturbance in the Counties of Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Monterey, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura. As of now requirements are only for jobs in these counties because they are considered “highly endemic” (i.e. annual incidence rate of Valley Fever is greater than 20 cases per 100,000 persons per year). Such operations include, but are not limited to digging, grading, or other earth moving operations, or vehicle operation on dirt roads, or high winds. Employers outside of construction are not subject to this requirement.

Employers meeting the above criteria have until May 1, 2020 to provide initial Valley Fever training to its employees. It is not expected that the Covid-19 sheltering will delay the training requirement since construction has been deemed an essential activity, and therefore can continue during these times. That said, employers should implement social distancing and other safety practices to prevent the spread of the virus while providing training. Annual Valley Fever employee training is required thereafter. The Valley Fever training may be included in the employer’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program training or as a standalone training program but must include the following topics:

  • 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, including pregnancy, diabetes, having 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, and wearing a respirator when exposure to dust cannot be avoided;
  • The importance of early detection, diagnosis, and treatment to prevent the disease from progressing; because the effectiveness of medication is greatest in the early stages of the disease;
  • Recognizing common signs and symptoms of Valley Fever, including cough, fatigue, fever, headache, joint pain or muscle aches, rash on upper body or legs, shortness of breath, and symptoms similar to influenza 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; and
  • Prognosis and common treatment for Valley Fever.

Employers may use existing materials on Valley Fever developed by federal, state, and local agencies. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health, and many local health departments have Valley Fever Resources employers can use.

Feel free to contact our office if you would like assistance in developing a training program and/or The Cohen Group to conduct Valley Fever Training for your employees.