A recent report from USA Today outlines the working conditions at Elon Musk’s Tesla Gigafactory. In one instance, firefighters responding to a chemical spill were met with “resistance” by Tesla supervisors, who wouldn’t help account for evacuated employees.
USA Today recently published an article outlining the conditions that Tesla employees work in at the electric car manufacturers’ production facilities. The article initially discusses a 24-year-old Tesla temp worker for a subcontractor who was injured at the Tesla Gigafactory outside of Reno, Nevada. USA Today writes:
Several hours into his shift, Dillon was helping guide a rack into place so it could be bolted into the factory floor. The racks are so heavy it takes a team of four people to maneuver them.
Unfortunately for Dillon, he was the guy holding the bottom of the rack. He was still pulling his hand out when the team dropped it.
“When it hit my finger and I pulled it out, I knew,” he said. “I was like ‘OK, something’s not there anymore.’”
He was wearing gloves, so he couldn’t immediately see that the rack had smashed off the top inch of his right index finger.
Dillon is now a 24-year-old grad student at the Georgia Institute of Technology. But in 2017 his was one in a string of injuries that happened in the three years that Tesla’s first Gigafactory was being built and put into production.
USA Today states that it’s not possible to determine whether or not Dillon’s injury was avoidable as the incident was never reported to workplace safety inspectors required by state and federal law. USA Today obtained documents from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which show that injuries at the Gigfactory near Reno occur regularly; there is at least three injuries per month at the facility according to the documents.
Tesla has been fined a total of $26,900 for workplace safety violations at the Gigafactory since 2017 but so far has had almost all fines reduced or eliminated. Three of the four fines involved amputations of some sort. The factory has also been the source of a number of 911 calls, in 2018 911 was contacted from the Gigafactory more than once a day on average for issues such as fights, suicide attempts, DUIs, thefts, and drug overdoses.
A quarter were related to medical issues such as heart problems, seizures, electrocutions, head injuries from unsecured construction debris blowing from the roof in a windstorm, and even people falling through holes in the floor.
An incident report from a chemical spill in 2017 claims that firefighters were met with “quite a bit of resistance” from Tesla managers. Supervisors refused to provide the name of the chemical that spilled or help the firefighters account for people that should have been evacuated from the building. Twelve people were treated and released from the hospital after being exposed to carbonic acid, a byproduct of the battery production process which causes respiratory issues and skin and eye irritation.
USA Today reports that these incidents didn’t shock former employees such as Chad Dehne who worked at the Gigafactory for several months supervising teams and temp workers inspecting battery canisters. He reported a similar chemical spill incident in 2018. USA Today reports:
When a call came in to evacuate, Dehne said workers scattered. No one seemed to be in charge of making sure everyone made it out safely, he said. As a supervisor, he used his own homemade sign-in sheets to find all of his workers on duty that day.
“Come to find out there was two people that were still inside the building,” he said. “I went inside … They were in there working! And being exposed. These guys said ‘Evacuate the building,’ and just beat feet. And not one person was responsible for going in there to make sure that everybody was gone.”
Read the full report at USA Today here.