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Latest U.S. report shows workplaces getting slightly safer

Here's some good news for Connecticut workers: The American workplace is growing safer. Or at least, that's one way to interpret the latest figures for non-fatal illness and injuries at work, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the agency's latest report, work-related injury and illness rates declined in 2012 from their rates of a year earlier. Still, the decline was modest: It dropped from 3.5 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2011 to 3.4 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2012. Fatal injuries were not included in the report.

Public sector workers reported more work-related illnesses and injuries than private sector workers in 2012. Within the private sector, medium-sized companies (with 50 to 249 employees) had the highest rates of reported work-related illnesses and injuries.

The latest figures may represent a modest improvement in the workplace, but they certainly show room for improvement. In Connecticut, the illness and injury rate was above average at 3.5 reported illnesses or injuries per 100 full-time workers, according to the report.

Workers who are sidelined by work-related illnesses and injuries are left with huge medical expenses, lost wages and other damages. Connecticut's workers' compensation benefits can help these workers to cope with these damages, but the system is often difficult to navigate. Employers fear that their insurance premiums will go up if they pay out too much in workers' compensation benefits, so they can sometimes be reluctant to honor claims for benefits. Even when the employer doesn't mind honoring the claim, the employer's insurer sometimes drags out the process as long as it can. When there is a dispute, it's vital to the injured worker to have help from professionals with experience in workers' compensation law.

Source: Business Insider, "The American Workplace Is Getting Safer," Andy Kiersz, Nov. 7, 2013

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