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Health Center Today, September 27, 2010

Occupational Illnesses in Connecticut Continue Downward Trend but Rate Still Higher Than National Average

Health Center Experts Find Repetitive Motion Injury Is Most Common Complaint  

By Carolyn Pennington

Photo of a man with a laptop holding his wrist

The number of on-the-job related illnesses in the state continues to decline although Connecticut still ranks higher than the national average.

According to a Connecticut Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, 3,600 Connecticut workers reported an occupational illness in 2008 (the most recent year for which data is available). That is a 10 percent decline from the previous year and a 26 percent decrease since more than 4,800 cases were reported in 2005.

Connecticut remains 12 percent higher than the national average of 23.4 illnesses per 10,000 workers. These rates do not reflect the much larger category of traumatic occupational injuries which are discussed in a separate annual report issued by the state labor department.

The Occupational Disease in Connecticut: 2010 report is prepared for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission by Health Center occupational and environmental experts Tim Morse and Paula Schenck. They found that musculoskeletal disorders, in particular carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, were the most common illnesses reported. Repetitive motion was the most common cause of the disorders.

"Musculoskeletal disease related to occupational conditions is often times preventable with attention to ergonomic factors in the workplace," says Morse. Ergonomic factors include forceful movements, posture and vibration as well as repetitive motion. "Because these factors are not thought of as obviously related to health risk in some work settings, tracking the reports is critical to support awareness and provide critical information that we use to better understand the causes. Then we can work with employers to fix it."

Lost-time musculoskeletal disorders, which include strains and sprains, decreased 4 percent from the year before, but the Connecticut rate of 53.9 per 10,000 workers remains significantly higher than the national rate of 35 per 10,000 workers.

Morse and Schenck gathered their information from three sources: the State Labor Department/Bureau of Labor Statistics survey; the Reports of First Injury to the Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission; and the Physicians Reports under the Occupational Disease Surveillance System.

The report is part of the Occupational Disease Surveillance System, a cooperative effort between the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Connecticut Labor Department, the academic occupational health programs at the UConn Health Center and Yale University, and other state occupational health clinics. The system is designed to trace and prevent occupational disease.

A free copy of the Occupational Disease in Connecticut: 2010 report that reflects data for 2008, is available at, or contact the Workers’ Compensation Commission at 860-493-1500 or Tim Morse at or 860-679-4720. The report includes a "Who’s Who" of contact information for agencies and programs in occupational health and safety in Connecticut, as well as a list of useful websites nationally.