Occupational Illnesses Decline But Connecticut Rates Still Above National Average

Three thousand Connecticut workers reported on-the-job-related illnesses in 2010 according to a State Labor Department/Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. The overall rate of occupational illness in Connecticut is 23.1 illnesses per 10,000 workers, a 12 percent decline from the previous year but still 9.5 percent higher than the national average. This confirms a downward trend with 37.5 percent fewer illness cases than the over 4,800 cases reported five years ago. These rates do not reflect the much larger category of traumatic occupational injuries which are discussed in a separate annual report issued by the Connecticut Department of Labor.

Paula Schenck
Paula Schenck

Occupational Disease in Connecticut, prepared for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission by occupational and environmental experts Tim Morse and Paula Schenck of the University of Connecticut Health Center, reviewed information from three sources: the State Labor Department/Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2010 survey; the 2010 Reports of First Injury to the Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission; and the 2009 and 2010 Physicians Reports under the Occupational Illnesses and Injury Surveillance System.

“Recognition of occupational exposures that contribute to illness is the critical first step to adjusting work practices and/or overall the work environment,” says Schenck. “Connecticut’s program that tracks occupational illness through three sources provides a more complete picture to inform efforts to prevent workplace illnesses and support a productive workforce. The information aids employers, workers, agencies, medical and public health personnel in their efforts to provide safe and healthy workplaces.”

The BLS survey included 900 reported cases in the education and health sector, the same as the previous year, corresponding to a rate of 42.4 illnesses for 10,000 workers.  Manufacturing accounted for the second highest rate at 41.7, a 23 percent decline from 2009, with 700 reports in 2010. The education and health sector included reports of skin, other/musculoskeletal illnesses, and respiratory disease. Manufacturing reports were dominated by hearing loss and other/musculoskeletal illness.

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. 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.

A free copy of the “Occupational Disease in Connecticut, 2012” report that reflects data for 2010 and 2009 is available at http://www.oehc.uchc.edu/news.asp, or by calling the Workers’ Compensation Commission at 860-493-1500 or Schenck at 860-679-2368.

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