A University of Connecticut report estimates that workers in Connecticut suffer 25,000 occupational illnesses each year.
UConn’s Health’s annual Labor Day Report covers data for 2018 and does not include occupational illnesses stemming from this year’s coronavirus pandemic.
Nonetheless, the author said the virus loomed large over the report, which does not address traumatic occupational injuries.
“Occupational illnesses are clearly in our minds today as we see the risks posed by COVID-19 to frontline workers in healthcare, transportation, retail, and elsewhere,” Tim Morse, a UConn Health occupational and environmental health expert professor emeritus, told UConn Today.
Among the 25,000 occupational injuries in 2018 were 9,000 chronic musculoskeletal conditions, 7,000 occupational infectious diseases, 2,000 lung diseases, 800 skin conditions, and 300 cases of hearing loss, the report said.
Among chronic musculoskeletal conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis dominated the workers’ compensation reports, accounting for 47% of cases.
Another roughly 5,000 cases listed as other conditions included injuries or illnesses involving stress, headaches, heart conditions, and some conditions considered difficult to classify.
Morse said the report shows the need for employers to take preventive measures to avoid workplace injuries and illnesses.
“These occupational illnesses impact the lives of 25,000 workers in Connecticut, in addition to traumatic injuries that are not included in this report, and COVID-19 shows clearly how important it is to prevent them,” Morse said.
Proper ergonomics can prevent musculoskeletal disorders, Morse said.
People working from home during the pandemic can take steps like using earbuds or headphones while on the phone to prevent cradling it, he said.
Worksites can use vinegar water to reduce the risk of lung injuries or illnesses from inhaling cleaning chemicals, Morse said.
And risk of infectious disease can be reduced through improved air ventilation and the use of N95 or air purifying respirators, he said.
The report found an overall illness rate of 14.1 cases per 10,000 workers based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 9% higher than the previous year.
Still, the Connecticut rate was 8% lower than the average national rate of 15.4 cases per 10,000 workers.
The highest specific sector rate was local government at 38.4 cases per 10,000 workers, followed by manufacturing at 30.8, and healthcare at 20.6.
Workers’ compensation was somewhat similar, with the highest rates for government at 77.6 cases per 10,000, manufacturing at 44.2, and trade at 31.2.
Morse prepares the report each year for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Commission chair Stephen Morelli said he was “encouraged by the decline in the numbers of occupational illnesses as employees and employers continue to focus on prevention.”
For more information, contact CBIA’s Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).