Workers who produce clothing, process food, or perform administrative work had the highest rates of work-related carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in California, according to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-funded research published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)external icon.

CTS is a musculoskeletal disorder that develops when repetitive, forceful motion causes pressure on a nerve in the wrist. Workers with CTS often experience pain, tingling, weakness, and numbness in their hand.

To identify workers at risk, the NIOSH-funded occupational health and safety surveillance program in the California Department of Public Health reviewed state workers’ compensation claims between 2007 and 2014. Researchers analyzed an average of 637,672 claims for each year for reported CTS cases, noting demographics, such as gender and age, and industry and occupation. They then calculated the CTS rate for employees working at least 40 hours weekly. Women experienced CTS at a rate three times that of men. The highest risk was among workers in production, material moving, and office and administrative support. During the 7-year period, 139,336 claims were related to CTS, equaling 6.3 cases per 10,000 workers. These findings show that workers’ compensation claims can identify high-risk jobs for CTS and other injuries and could help other states focus on ergonomic interventions to design tasks and equipment that minimize the risk to workers.

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Source: NIOSH