Under California Labor Code section 6709, added to the Labor Code in 2020, construction employers located in California's central valley region are required to provide valley fever awareness training by May 1st each year and before employees begin work that will cause exposure to visible airborne dust for a total duration of one hour or more.
Valley fever is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides, commonly found in the soil of certain regions and usually contracted by breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from kicked-up soil. Most infections are asymptomatic and harmless but some cases result in significant illness and even death. In the wake of a California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) report showing an increase in valley fever infections of more than 50 percent since 2016, the California legislature passed a law mandating awareness training for at-risk employees.
The training requirement applies to construction employers with employees working at worksites in counties where valley fever is highly endemic and where work activities disturb the soil. Work activities that disturb the soil include earth-moving operations such as digging and grading, vehicle operation on dirt roads, and high winds. The counties in which valley fever is highly endemic currently include:
- San Joaquin
- San Luis Obispo
- Santa Barbara
Additional counties may be subject to the training requirement as “highly endemic” areas when the State Department of Public Health releases its annual report this summer. Valley fever is highly endemic to a county if the annual report shows a case rate of more than 20 cases per 100,000 persons.
The required training may be included in the employer’s injury and illness prevention program training or as a standalone training program. It must include the following topics:
- What valley fever is and how it is contracted
- High-risk areas and types of work and environmental conditions during which the risk of contracting valley fever is highest
- Personal risk factors that may create a higher risk for some individuals
- Personal and environmental exposure prevention methods
- The importance of early detection, diagnosis, and treatment
- Recognizing common signs and symptoms
- The importance of reporting symptoms to the employer and seeking medical attention
- Common treatment and prognosis
In providing the training, employers may rely on existing materials developed by a government agency. The CDPH training materials are located here.
If you have any questions about the matters discussed in this issue of Compliance Matters, please call your firm contact at (818) 508-3700 or 704-765-1409, or visit us online at www.brgslaw.com.
Richard S. Rosenberg
Charles H.W. Foster
Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt, LLP