Work Injuries in Connecticut Up, Above National Average

Incident/injury report form. (Shutterstock Photo)
Incident/injury report form. (Shutterstock Photo)

SHARELINES

Workplace injuries and illnesses in Connecticut increased by 8 percent within a year’s time, and the state remained above the national average for the seventh straight year, according to a new report by UConn Health.

In 2014 – the most recent year available – the state’s overall rate of occupational illness was 18.7 illnesses per 10,000 workers, which is 7 percent higher than the average. The report is based on data from Workers’ Compensation, physician reports, and a standardized survey compiled by the Connecticut Labor Department and the national Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Connecticut has been higher than the national average since the comparison was able to be made. (Prior to seven years ago, the state and national figures were not comparable, since the national data did not include the government sector.)

“It’s troubling that the rate of work-related illness in Connecticut remains higher than national averages and includes preventable illnesses,” said Tim Morse, professor emeritus at UConn Health and the study’s author. “Adding knowledge of prevention strategies such as ergonomics, the use of safer chemicals, effective infection control, and improvements in indoor office and school environments would well serve to support overall worker health and productivity.”

A close look at the 2014 information revealed 8,257 unique occupational illness cases, which is 8 percent higher than 2013. Those include approximately 3,500 musculoskeletal cases, 2,500 infectious disease cases, 650 respiratory cases, almost 400 skin conditions, and over 1,000 “other” cases.

Morse, an occupational and environmental health expert, prepared the report “Occupational Disease in Connecticut, 2016,” for the State of Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission. Tracking the data is part of the Occupational Injury and Illness Surveillance System, a cooperative effort of the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and the Connecticut Labor Department.

The system is designed to track occurrences of work-related disease with an eye to understanding patterns and developing approaches to prevent occupational illness.

Based on workers’ compensation reports, the highest rates of injury and illness by industry are found in the education/health sector (60 cases per 10,000 workers); government (55); manufacturing (53); and transportation/utilities (44).

Rates also vary across towns and cities in Connecticut. The highest rates were in Farmington, Norwich, and Groton. Hartford, Middletown, Southington, New Haven, Stratford, Wallingford, and Cheshire were also above the state average.

High rates in towns often reflect large employers in higher hazard industries, and may also reflect better reporting of cases (including the effect of having local occupational health clinics accurately diagnosing cases), since many cases of occupational illness are not reported.

“Although workers’ compensation reports nominally declined in number, health provider reports increased. This may reflect more cases, or providers having more awareness of the work-relatedness of many illnesses,” Morse said.

John A. Mastropietro, chairman of Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission, encourages employers and employees to utilize the information in this report to help reduce the number of cases and maintain worker health.

“Our workforce is an important asset to Connecticut’s future, and we urge companies to implement actions in their workplaces that serve to prevent injury and illness,” Mastropietro said.

To get a copy of the report, go online or call the Workers’ Compensation Commission at 860-493-1500. Or you may contact UConn Health’s Paula Schenck at 860-679-2368 or schenck@uchc.edu. In addition to the data, it includes key contact information for agencies and programs in occupational health and safety in Connecticut.