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By Charlie Smart
A new report from the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington shows high rates of work-related illness in Connecticut.
“We found that Connecticut is over the national average for occupational illnesses, we’re about eight percent higher than the national average,” said Dr. Tim Morse, an emeritus professor at UConn Health and author of the report.
Morse looked at data from three organizations: the State Labor Department, the Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission, and reports from physicians to the Connecticut Departments of Labor and Public Health. The data came from the year 2013.
Morse found that rates of occupational illness in the state were high.
“First of all, we found almost 8,000 unique cases of occupational illness in Connecticut,” he said.
Morse said that amounts to an increase in the rate of occupational illness of about 6% from the year before.
In this report, Morse wasn’t looking at broken arms or cuts and bruises. Those fall under the category of occupational injuries.
Occupational illness is a bit different.
“Occupational illnesses are more chronic conditions that are caused in part by work but have other factors that go into them,” said Morse.
According to the report, the most common forms of occupational illness are things like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome — musculoskeletal conditions caused by repeated use.
Morse said the term also encompasses things like skin and lung disease — anything that can be linked to a person’s work.
Morse said the causes of the high rates in Connecticut aren’t clear.
It could simply be a factor of reporting. “We know that occupational illness are underreported,” said Morse, “so it could be just that people in Connecticut are more aware of the conditions and are more likely to report them.”
Morse said the type of industry in the state could also impact the rate.
According to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, Connecticut has a higher percent of jobs in the manufacturing sector than the national average.
Manufacturing had the second highest rate of occupational illness among large injury sectors. It was superseded only by the state government sector, which includes police and health care workers.
Morse said companies can use the results of this report to help increase safety in their workplaces.