Industrial accidents not the only cause of workplace death

Industrial accidents not the only cause of workplace death

The illness is known as 'valley fever,' and it is reportedly responsible for three employee deaths at prisons in the San Joaquin Valley since January 2009. Authorities say that the illness has also sickened more than 100 others in the prison population, causing serious concern within prison facilities. Although the illness is not caused by industrial accidents, it is prompting serious uproar because it has caused the death of workers in the course of employment.

Health experts say that the fungus that causes the fever generally resides in the soil in the surrounding area. In most cases, symptoms are not present, but two in five victims suffer flu-like symptoms and other types of infections. Valley fever has been known to lead to blindness, lung failure, serious abscesses in the skin, and even death. Rates of the fever have increased six-fold in the past 10 years in California, with more than 5,500 cases occurring in 2011.

The employees killed in these work-related incidents died while working at Avenal and Pleasant Valley prisons. The response to the worker death has been widespread, as a judge has ordered more than 2,500 inmates to be moved to other prisons. The fever reportedly most often affects those living on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Certain minority populations and those with immune disorders are more vulnerable to the potentially fatal disease.

Family members of the workers who have perished because of the fever may be able to recover workers' compensation in connection with the worker death. The Centers for Disease Control is still reviewing the outbreak. Fatal work-related accidents are not always caused by machines or chemical spills; they can also be related to biological phenomena. Workplaces throughout California have the responsibility to protect their employees by taking adequate precautions against known hazards. Employees who have suffered injury because of workplace negligence deserve workers' compensation benefits.

Source: The Fresno Bee, "Study: Valley fever has killed 3 prison workers, 103 sickened" Don Thompson, Feb. 06, 2014

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