Journalists at the Center for Investigative Reporting have recently published an analysis of alleged widespread safety issues at the Fremont, California plant where Tesla cars are built (see link to the article at the bottom of this post).
In 2017 I posted on a Worksafe think-tank study analyzing Tesla’s safety record:
The recent CIR report provides a scathing look at Tesla’s safety culture.
As I noted in my previous post, I am a fan of Tesla cars. My wife owns one and occasionally I’m granted permission to take it for a spin. I’m also generally a fan of Elon Musk as an admirer of his creative vision in so many endeavors. And I installed Solar City panels on my roof.
And I’m glad to see the Bay Area having some good paying manufacturing jobs.
So I’m not a Tesla basher.
On the other hand, I should note that Boxer & Gerson does represent some Tesla workers on their workers’ comp claims, though I have never personally interviewed or represented those workers.
The CIR report is troubling. The reporters use both anecdotes from interviews, e-mails from former safety personnel, and hard numbers OSHA safety data to drive home their point.
The company is said to be underreporting injuries, particularly chemical exposures and repetitive use orthopedic injuries. And some workers complain that there is a refusal to put up safety signs, a failure to provide adequate training, and even a petty refusal to use the color yellow for safety markings since Elon Musk allegedly does not like the the color.
Tesla contests many of the allegations (see link at the end of this post) and some of those interviewed for the article are no longer with the company. Tesla contests the motivation of some of the complainants.
Tesla is a company under great pressure. Model 3 production goals have not been met. The company is producing multiple models at one facility, making it vulnerable to any sort of significant accident or event that might cause a work stoppage or work slowdown.
Tesla’s high-flying stock has lost significant ground lately. Recently pundits on CNBC were noting that short sellers were having a field day with the stock. There has been concern about the company burning through its cash and having to raise money on the capital markets. And the company is trying to discourage a bid to unionize.
One thing is for sure: the company is under the microscope. But it is not alone. From Uber to Facebook we are seeing some of the “move fast and break things” Silicon Valley ethos challenged. Tesla may be one of the companies that needs to adjust its HR and safety practices.
According to Bloomberg.com, Cal-OSHA has apparently begun an investigation in response to the CIR article:
Here is a link to the CIR article:
Here is the Tesla rebuttal: