Occupational illnesses affect 25,000 Connecticut workers annually: report
Farmington, CT — An estimated 25,000 work-related illnesses are reported in Connecticut each year, according to a report released Sept. 1 from UConn Health.
The report is based on 1997-2018 data from three primary sources: reports of individuals filing for workers’ compensation, physicians’ reports to the Occupational Illnesses and Injury Surveillance System, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics/Connecticut Department of Labor annual survey of employees. It doesn’t include traumatic injuries.
In 2018, an estimated 7,000 work-related infectious diseases were reported, along with 9,000 chronic musculoskeletal conditions; 2,000 lung diseases; 800 skin conditions; 300 hearing loss cases; and 5,000 “other” conditions, including stress, headaches, heart conditions and “difficult-to-classify” health issues. Based on the workers’ comp data, work-related illnesses were most likely to occur in government (77.6%), manufacturing (44.2%) and trade (31.2%). According to the BLS data, the state’s rate of illness (14.1 per 10,000 workers) was 9% higher than in 2017.
Although the data precedes the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, “occupational illnesses are clearly in our minds today as we see the risks posed by COVID-19 to frontline workers in health care, transportation, retail and elsewhere,” Tim Morse, author of the report and professor emeritus at UConn Health, said a Sept. 2 press release. “However, workers in Connecticut face many other infectious diseases such as bloodborne exposures in health care; Lyme disease and skin conditions in outdoor workers; musculoskeletal conditions in manufacturing, offices and construction; and job stress and heart conditions in protective services.”
To reduce the risk of work-related illnesses, UConn Health recommends:
- Conducting ergonomics evaluations to help prevent musculoskeletal disorders.
- Using safer substitutes for cleaning chemicals.
- Limiting infection risk by washing hands frequently, improving ventilation systems, and using N95 respirators or powered air-purifying respirators.