News Release

August 30, 2006

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Occupational Illnesses Reported for 2004 Hold Steady

Repetitive Motion Causes Most Problems

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Connecticut’s workers had essentially the same number of occupational diseases in 2004 as were reported in the previous year, according to a recent report prepared for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission by UConn Health Center occupational and environmental expert Tim Morse, Ph.D. The overall rate of diseases is slightly higher than national figures.

According to Morse, occupational illnesses are hard to track. “They’re not immediate, like an on-the-job injury. Many worker health problems occur over time and that can make diagnosing those problems difficult for physicians,” he says. Another reason occupational illnesses are difficult to track is that employees are often reluctant to report an injury or illness because they are concerned about how the employer may respond, says Morse. And sometimes, he says, employees just don’t want the hassle of dealing with paperwork.

“Tracking occupational diseases is the best way to help identify problems that are preventable,” says Morse. “But they have to be reported before we can understand what’s happening in the workplace and begin to fix it.”

“No matter what strides are made to limit worker injuries, or the associated costs to both businesses and injured workers, they can never be enough,” says John Mastropietro, chairman of the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission. “We must continue to devote ourselves to preventive measures that will keep injuries from occurring in the first place.”

The occupation disease report for 2004 reported 4,572 occupation-related illnesses based on the State Labor Department survey. More than half were caused by long-term repetitive motion problems, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Of particular concern, says Morse, was the increase in these types of injuries in the Workers’ Compensation System, 2,114, the highest level since 1997. The current overall rate of 24.1 reported repetitive motion injuries per 10,000 workers is back up near the 1999 peak of 25.8.

There was an 11 percent increase of lung disease, with acute respiratory disease accounting for half of those cases, based on the Labor Department survey. Reports of elevated blood lead levels to the Department of Public Health saw a decrease of 15 percent. Among other diseases reported were heart and stress-related illnesses, and skin disorders.

The manufacturing industry had the highest number of cases overall, followed by the services sector in education and health. Municipalities had the highest percentage of cases per number of employees.

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 occupation health clinics at the University of Connecticut Health Center and Yale University, and other state occupational health clinics. The system is designed to trace and prevent occupational disease. 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 the most useful websites nationally.

A free copy of the “Occupational Disease on Connecticut: 2006” report that reflects data for 2004, is available at, or call the Workers’ Compensation Commission at 860-493-1500 or Morse at 860-679-4720. Report data comes from Worker’s Compensation First Report of Injury, physician reports under the Occupational Disease Surveillance System, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics/Conn-OSHA annual survey.

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