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S. Ozone family to sue Con Ed

By Nathan Duke

The family of an Ozone Park contractor who was electrocuted at Con Edison's Astoria substation plans to sue the utility, but the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the Brooklyn company where the man worked and not the electrical provider.

John Rodriguez, 44, a Con Edison contractor who lived in Ozone Park, died after being electrocuted in February while installing electrical cable at the utility's substation at 20th Avenue and 21st Street in Astoria.

Rodriguez's family, including his wife, Teotiste, and four children, plan to sue the utility on the grounds that it created an unsafe work environment, which caused the contractor's death, said David Ratner, an attorney representing the family.

“This is another example of Con Edison's disregard for the safety and welfare of the people it is supposed to take care of, including those who work at its facilities,” he said.

Rodriguez's family could not be reached for comment.

But OSHA slapped Brooklyn's CKR Construction, which employed Rodriguez, with three violations and a $15,500 fine after the agency said it determined that a foreman directed Rodriguez “to connect and disconnect ground terminals without testing or treating terminals as energized” and that “employees were removing grounds from equipment with an uninsulated crescent wrench.”

CRK Construction could not be reached for comment. The company must pay off its fines by Sept. 17, OSHA said.

The agency did not fine Con Ed in the incident.

“All contractors are required to develop a health and safety plan that they must follow,” the utility said in a statement. “We expect contractors to adhere to the company's high safety standards. Tragically, in this instance that did not happen.”

But a spokeswoman for state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said Con Edison would still be responsible under state law for overseeing the contractors and monitoring work at the site.

“History makes clear that this unaccountable monopoly is among the least compassionate companies in existence,” Gianaris said. “This must change if we are to make any progress toward making things better.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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