Report cites safety violation in worker death

March 27, 2009 4:04:28 PM PDT
It is a disturbing report that cites Con Edison for safety violations in the death of a worker. Twenty-six year old George Dillman was killed in a manhole explosion last October. An investigation by the Labor Department reveals his death was preventable.

Federal investigators say there were warning signs that something was wrong in this manhole days before the fatal explosion.The violations suggest ignoring them may have cost a worker his life.

The death of Con Edison worker George Dillman occurred just 36 months after he had been hired. The utility company claimed he had extensive training and that there was no need to cut-off power to the cables before sending the 26-year-old repairman underground.

Now, a federal investigation claims Con Ed was wrong on both counts. Labor Department investigators have hit the company with six serious violations claiming that Dillman: " was not properly trained" and the most damning violations which says Con Ed knew about problems: "two weeks before " the explosion warning signs that included "deteriorating cable, presence of oil and unexplained noises," and when Dillman was sent into manhole, the "cables were not de-energized."

"It's totally unnecessary as I've stated before, this could have been prevented,"said Ariel Antomarchi.

A former Con Ed worker has been speaking out for years about the dangers of safety short-cuts like working around live cables to keep the juice flowing to customers.

"This is about saving money, this worker is collateral damage such as the other workers they are collateral damage," said Antomarchi.

Four years ago, the Labor Department issued similar violations against Con Ed saying:"improper training" contributed to the deaths of two workers in a manhole explosion. A Queens lawmaker who's been highly critical of the utility's safety record says when will the company learn.

"We're dealing with a company like Con Ed, that is a monopoly that is fairly unaccountable in terms of any government agency overseeing them, we have mistakes like this over and over again," said Assemblyman Michael Gianaris.

Con Ed released the following statement: " following the accident, we took immediate steps to ensure that all of our employees who work with power cables in manholes follow strict safety procedures and guidelines." It continues to say: "we are taking to do everything possible to prevent something like this from happening again."

For these six serious violations, Con Ed has been fined $15,000, a penalty some argue will hardly prevent scenes like this from happening again.

"This is multi-billion dollar company, $15,000 to them might as well be a nickel," said Gianaris.

Con Edison says its crews work with potentially dangerous equipment and that safety is their number one priority.