According to a recent report from Reveal News, Elon Musk’s Tesla left factory injuries off of official reports, to make its factories seem safer for workers than they really are.
Reveal news reports that electric car manufacturer Tesla failed to report a number of injuries at the Fremont, California factory recently. The report notes that Tesla’s security officer brought many of these issues to managers and even CEO Elon Musk, but when discussing the lack of yellow markings designating hazard areas, she was told “Elon does not like the color yellow.”
Reveal News writes:
Concerned about bone-crunching collisions and the lack of clearly marked pedestrian lanes at the Fremont, California, plant, the general assembly line’s then-lead safety professional went to her boss, who she said told her, “Elon does not like the color yellow.”
Robots work on Model S cars in Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif., in 2015. One color that some of Tesla’s former safety experts wanted to see more of is yellow, the traditional hue of caution used to mark hazards.
The melding of cutting-edge technology and world-saving vision is Tesla Inc.’s big draw. Many, including Justine White, the safety lead, went to work there inspired by Elon Musk, a CEO with star power and now a groundbreaking rocket in space.
But what many true Tesla believers found was that the company’s operation was not what they expected it to be:
What she and some of her colleagues found, they said, was a chaotic factory floor where style and speed trumped safety. Musk’s name often was invoked to justify shortcuts and shoot down concerns, they said.
Under fire for mounting injuries, Tesla recently touted a sharp drop in its injury rate for 2017, which it says came down to meet the auto industry average of about 6.2 injuries per 100 workers.
But things are not always as they seem at Tesla. An investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that Tesla has failed to report some of its serious injuries on legally mandated reports, making the company’s injury numbers look better than they actually are.
Tesla reportedly began marking injuries received at the factory as personal medical issues or claimed they were only minor issues that required first aid, but many injuries were quite serious:
Last April, Tarik Logan suffered debilitating headaches from the fumes of a toxic glue he had to use at the plant. He texted his mom: “I’m n hella pain foreal something ain’t right.”
The searing pain became so unbearable he couldn’t work, and it plagued him for weeks.
But Logan’s inhalation injury, as it was diagnosed, never made it onto the official injury logs that state and federal law requires companies to keep. Neither did reports from other factory workers of sprains, strains and repetitive stress injuries from piecing together Tesla’s sleek cars.
Instead, company officials labeled the injuries personal medical issues or minor incidents requiring only first aid, according to internal company records obtained by Reveal.
Undercounting injuries is one symptom of a more fundamental problem at Tesla: The company has put its manufacturing of electric cars above safety concerns, according to five former members of its environment, health and safety team who left the company last year. That, they said, has put workers unnecessarily in harm’s way.
In an email to Tesla director Sam Teller, White said that while she had worked under intense conditions in Kabul, Afghanistan; Fukushima during the radiation crisis; Monrovia during the Ebola crisis; and Ferguson during the riots, she could not sleep at night while working at Tesla due to the safety issues she had seen.
"Hi Sam. I worked at:
– Kabul, Afghanistan
– Fukushima during the radiation crisis
– Monrovia during the Ebola crisis
– Ferguson during the riots
— Gavran (@ravenvanderrave) March 26, 2019
White told Reveal News: “Everything took a back seat to production. It’s just a matter of time before somebody gets killed.”
Read the full report from Reveal News here.