News Release

September 26, 2008

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Occupational Illnesses in Connecticut Decreasing But Still Higher than National Average

Repetitive Motion Trauma Most Common Complaint

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Nearly 4,000 Connecticut workers reported an on-the-job related illness in 2006, a 22 percent overall decrease from the year before, according to a State Labor Department/Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey. According to the Occupational Disease Report prepared for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission by Tim Morse, Ph.D., of the University of Connecticut Health Center, the overall illness rate in Connecticut of 27.7 per 10,000 workers was higher than the national average of 24.6. This was driven by Connecticut’s higher rates of hearing loss and repetitive trauma injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Connecticut scored lower than the national average for respiratory conditions, poisonings, and skin disorders.

“Tracking occupational diseases is the best way to help identify problems that are preventable,” says Morse. “But they are typically harder to detect than injuries since they often occur over longer periods of time and can have multiple (including non-occupational) risks. It is extremely important for these diseases to be reported so we can understand what’s happening in the workplace and begin to fix it.”

Workers in the manufacturing sector reported the highest number of occupational illnesses (63.6 per 10,000 workers) mainly due to repetitive trauma. Education and health professions tied with the information sector for the next highest rate of illness at 40.3.

Lost-time musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), which includes strains and sprains, stayed about the same as the year before, but the Connecticut rate of 54.1 per 10,000 workers is 40 percent higher than the national MSD rate of 38.6.

 “Occupational disease can have major impacts on worker health, ability to work, and employer costs,” explains Morse. “Some diseases, such as cancers from asbestos exposure, can be fatal. Other diseases, such as carpal tunnel syndrome from ergonomic problems, can result in high levels of disability. Prevention efforts can reduce both diseases and costs because, in theory at least, all occupational diseases are preventable.”

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 in Connecticut: 2008” report that reflects data for 2006, is available at, or call the Workers’ Compensation Commission at 860-493-1500 or Morse at 860-679-4720.

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