Connecticut workers suffered nearly 8,000 cases of job-related illness in Connecticut in 2013, according to a report released Monday.
There were 7,669 unique instances of occupational illnesses reported statewide in 2013, the most recent year for which data has been compiled, according to a report titled “Occupational Disease in Connecticut, 2015.”
The report was prepared for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission by Tim Morse, an occupational and environmental health expert at Farmington-based UConn Health, the academic medical center for the University of Connecticut.
“Occupational illnesses are increasing slightly faster than the rate of growth in total employment for Connecticut,” Morse said in a statement. “As the economy, hopefully, continues to grow, we need to pay renewed attention to these illnesses that can have profound effects on worker lives, and yet are by definition preventable.”
Employers, workers and unions should explore ergonomics, safer chemical options and infection control improvements to reduce the number of job-related illnesses, he said.
The overall rate of occupational illness, based on a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Connecticut Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was 20.3 illnesses per 10,000 workers, making Connecticut’s rate worse than 25 states’, according to the report.
The report examines illnesses that were reported to either the Workers’ Compensation Commission or the state Department of Public Health in 2013. Despite the increase in illnesses, the rate of Workers’ Compensation cases was unchanged from the previous year.
The report includes data from two different reporting systems, which had different criteria and, therefore, different results.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics illness rate, for instance, which was based on a “fairly small sample of employers,” shows occupational illnesses declined 7 percent from the previous year. A broader survey, however, showed unique cases of illness rose 6 percent from 2012, according to the report.
Based on reports to the Workers’ Compensation Commission, 37 cities and towns had at least 50 reported cases of job-related illness. The highest rate, at 163 cases per 10,000 workers, was in Farmington; followed by Groton, with 118 cases per 10,000 workers; and Norwich, with 110 cases per 10,000 workers, the report found.
Statewide, the rate of illness reported to the Workers’ Compensation Commission was 36.8 per 10,000 workers – higher than the rate found by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and OSHA.
“The Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission wants to help in preventing occupational injuries and illnesses,” commission Chairman John Mastropietro said in a statement. “Ideally, we would get fewer and fewer cases coming to the commission each year, through the use of resources such as company health and safety committees, which are required in most Connecticut workplaces under Workers’ Compensation statutes. Prevention is always better than compensation.”
Among the illnesses reported to Workers’ Compensation, most – 54 percent – were musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Others reported were blood-borne illnesses and exposures, tuberculosis, scabies, Lyme Disease, skin conditions, and lung conditions like occupational asthma, according to the report.
Across Connecticut’s larger industry sectors, state government was the industry sector with the highest rate of illness reported to the Workers’ Compensation Commission, at 44.3 cases per 10,000 workers, followed by manufacturing with 42.7 cases per 10,000 workers and local government with 40.8 cases per 10,000 workers.