News Release

August 25, 2014

Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Fewer Work-Related Illnesses Reported but Above National Rate

FARMINGTON, CONN. – As we approach another Labor Day holiday, Connecticut workers continue to suffer occupational illness rates higher than the national average. There were 7,129 unique cases of occupational illnesses reported to either the Workers' Compensation Commission or the Department of Public Health in 2012 based on a study by UConn Health.

The overall rate of occupational illness was 21.9 illnesses per 10,000 workers, improving Connecticut’s standing among the states from last year but still eight percent higher than the national average, based on the standardized survey compiled by the Connecticut Labor Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A new mapping approach found 33 towns and municipalities with at least 50 cases of occupational illnesses. The highest rate was in Farmington at 15.3 cases per 1,000 workers (the overall state average is 3.7), followed by Groton (10.6), Middletown (8.6), Hartford (6.8), New Haven (6.8), and Bloomfield (6.6).

Occupational Disease in Connecticut, 2014,” prepared for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission by occupational and environmental health expert Tim Morse of UConn Health, reviewed information for the 2012 reporting year from three sources: the State Labor Department/Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey; the first reports of injury to the Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission; and physician reports to the Connecticut Departments of Labor and Public Health under the Occupational Illnesses and Injury Surveillance System.  (This data is in addition to cases of traumatic occupational injury reported by the Connecticut Labor Department in its annual survey). 

“It is encouraging that occupational illnesses declined in 2012, though we are still seeing thousands of cases of these often serious conditions every year, with many cases not even being reported” said Morse. “Occupational illnesses are preventable through such approaches as ergonomics, the use of safer chemicals, the use of safe needle devices in health care, and improvements in overall worker health. We encourage employers and unions to increase their efforts through the use of safety committees and other preventive resources.”
Connecticut continues to be higher than the national average for occupational disease, a pattern that has persisted for a number of years. "It is difficult to pinpoint the reasons why Connecticut remains above the national average" said Morse. "It could be simply that we are more diligent in diagnosing and/or reporting cases here, although the Bureau of Labor Statistics methods are the same for all states. Other possible reasons include a higher concentration of hazardous industries, higher productivity, or longer work hours which may increase risk. However, we don't have clear data to determine which, if any, of these might be contributing."

"The Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission wants to help in preventing occupational injuries and illnesses, and hopes that employers and employees utilize the information in this report to help to reduce the number of cases that wind up in front of our commission," according to Chairman Jon Mastropietro. "Prevention is always better than compensation."

Musculoskeletal disorders and hearing loss account for the majority of occupational illnesses reported in the BLS survey in manufacturing, the major sector with the highest overall rate of occupational illness (agriculture and natural resources was higher, but is a small sector in terms of employment). The rate of occupational illness in the local and state government sectors was almost as high as manufacturing, driven by musculoskeletal and skin disorders.
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 UConn Health 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 useful internet websites. A map of Connecticut displaying the rates of illness by town is included.

A free copy of the “Occupational Disease in Connecticut, 2014” report that reflects data for 2012, 2011 and 2010 is available at by calling the Workers’ Compensation Commission at 860-493-1500 or Paula Schenck at UConn Health at 860-679-2368.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

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