April 19 (UPI) — Working conditions at Tesla Motors’ assembly plant in California’s Bay Area are being investigated over claims of serious injuries that went unreported there, officials said Thursday.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigation follows a report by The Center for Investigative Reporting that accuses Tesla of not disclosing legally mandated reports on serious worker injuries.
Erika Monterroza, communications director for the agency, said details about the investigation can’t be released yet, but said they typically include a review of the employer’s log of work-related injuries and illnesses.
Under California law, serious workplace injuries must be reported within eight hours.
“Cal/OSHA takes seriously reports of workplace hazards and allegations of employers’ underreporting recordable work-related injuries and illnesses on the Log 300,” Monterroza told United Press International in an email.
Agency regulations define a serious injury or illness as one that requires employee hospitalization for more than 24 hours, or in cases of amputation or permanent disfigurement.
The Center for Investigative Reporting said its initial report was based on internal Tesla documents and interviews with dozens of employees — five of whom were members of Tesla’s safety team. Health and safety concerns reported by workers included headaches from breathing fumes, a head injury and repetitive strains.
In an emailed statement to UPI, a Tesla spokesperson said the injury rate at the Fremont, Calif., factory is half what it was when General Motors and Toyota owned the plant.
“We care deeply about the safety and well-being of our people and strive to do better every day,” the statement read. “Cal-OSHA is required to investigate any claims that are made, regardless of whether they have merit or are baseless (as we believe these are), and we always provide our full cooperation.”
The spokesperson said a state investigation last year found no violations in Tesla’s injury reporting and record-keeping.
“In fact, unlike other automakers who in the past have been cited by OSHA for record-keeping violations, we have never in the entire history of our company received a violation for inaccurate or incomplete injury record-keeping,” the spokesperson said.
Tesla, already in a struggle to ramp up production of its Model 3 electric car, said the report reflects “a lack of understanding about how injury reporting works.”
“After a thorough review with a third-party medical professional, it sometimes becomes clear that what initially was thought to be work-related is, in fact, personal,” Tesla states on its website.
Monday, Tesla paused production of the Model 3 for the second time, just days after CEO Elon Musk said he would speed up assembly.
The first pause occurred in February. At the time, Tesla said the move aimed to “improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks to increase production rates.”