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Occupational illness rate in Connecticut higher than U.S. average

A recent review found that the rate of occupational illness in Connecticut is higher than the national average. According to the Connecticut Labor Department, in 2011, the rate of occupational illnesses was 27.8 illnesses per 10,000 workers, which is about 35 percent higher than the average for the rest of the country. In 2011, there were 7,265 cases of occupational illnesses reported to two state agencies, according to the review by the University of Connecticut Health Center.

The majority of illnesses reported in the industrial sector were musculoskeletal disorders. Manufacturing had the highest rate of reported occupational illnesses of any category within the industrial sector. Ordinarily, reports of occupational illness go up as employment goes up, but employment was down slightly in 2011 from the year before.

The term occupational illness encompasses a wide variety of health problems, including illnesses that result from long-term exposure to toxic chemicals, hypertension and stress-related illness and repetitive strain injuries. Occupational illnesses are not the result of one workplace accident, but they can lead to large medical expenses or lost wages when they are so bad that the sufferer cannot go to work. Like injuries from accidents, they can be covered by workers' compensation benefits.

Making a claim for workers' compensation benefits can be tricky, and that may be even more true for occupational illnesses than it is for workplace accidents. An employer or the employer's insurance company may try to argue that the illness was not work-related. It is important for Connecticut workers to know their rights and to have help arguing their side so that they can get the benefits they need.

Source: U Conn Today, "Occupational Illness Rates in Connecticut Above National Average," Carolyn Pennington, Aug. 30, 2013

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