New Report Says Tesla Injury Rate Higher Than Average At Fremont Factory

6 months ago by Steven Loveday 25

Tesla

The Tesla factory in Fremont, California

Despite previous reports and information provided by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, a new report suggests that the electric automaker’s worker injury rate is above the industry average.

Tesla is aiming to succeed at one of the quickest production ramp ups in history, following record-breaking pre-orders of its upcoming Model 3 sedan. As the automaker continues to surge forward, union pressure is now increasing, and scrutiny is at the utmost.

Recently, Tesla went to bat against unions once again, publishing a paper explaining its worker policies, focusing on employee well-being, and low incident rate.

The company did so because it was made aware that union groups were making a “professional media push intended to raise questions about safety at Tesla”, and to re-assure that employees are being taken care of, and to shed light on any issues.

A Tesla Model S Gets Assembled In Fremont, CA

According to Forbes, the 2015 injury rate at Tesla’s Fremont facility was 31 percent higher than the U.S. automotive industry average.

Also, the number of serious injuries was double the national average. Worksafe reported that the overall incident rate for that year was 8.8 per 100 workers (the industry average is 6.7). Forbes points out Worksafe’s data comes from actual statistics via the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Figures for 2016 are not yet available, however, Elon Musk has made it clear on numerous occasions that Tesla is below the industry average. Data from 2017 (which is still incomplete) shows a number of 8.1. We won’t know if this total does indeed comes down until a full report is published. Executive Director of Worksafe, Doug Parker, said:

“The discrepancies in these numbers demand at least an explanation from the company.”

The worksafe report points out:

“Tesla’s significant recent revisions to both its 2016 and 2017 injury data call into question the reliability of the company’s recordkeeping. The injury data Tesla has recorded so far for Q1 of 2017 is too preliminary to be considered accurate given Tesla’s somewhat erratic reporting patterns. Moreover, one quarter is not a sufficient length of time to accurately identify a meaningful and lasting trend in injury reduction.”

Worksafe looked into the matter in detail, following a request by the United Auto Workers. Tesla has admitted that it had challenges in the past, since it’s a new automaker, without the know-how and resources of the large, experienced companies.

“We may have had some challenges in the past as we were learning how to become a car company, but what matters is the future and with the changes we’ve made, we now have the lowest injury rate in the industry by far. Our goal is to have as close to zero injuries as humanly possible and to become the safest factory in the auto industry.”

If Tesla has made changes for the better, and there just hasn’t been enough time to collect enough data, the automaker should be able to prove its case in the near future. Keep in mind that the only specific data the report is referring to dates back to 2015. Without the union request, Worksafe may not have called into question the data.

While the discrepancies here could prove very telling, it’s important to consider that various sources are reporting different information. We have not heard directly from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is the union’s job to protect workers, and assure that everything checks out. However, potentially inciting news reporting agencies to publish old data and incomplete information, for the sake of negative attention, is probably not the most appropriate way to handle and improve employee safety.

Until further hard/current information is made available, it’s clear that we just won’t have the data necessary to paint an accurate picture of the truth.

Source: Forbes

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25 responses to "New Report Says Tesla Injury Rate Higher Than Average At Fremont Factory"

  1. TomArt says:

    hmmm…a lot of assumptions on intent…just wait for the data.

  2. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

    Unions are a cancer that will eventually kill it’s host.

    1. Dan says:

      The inability to distinguish between its and it’s is usually a sign that the host is already brain dead.

      1. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

        blah blah blah, grammmeeerrr, yak yak yak

  3. Dav8or says:

    Well, that’s going to happen when you run your manufacturing company like a Silicon Valley tech company. The norm is 12+ hour days, work on weekends and to push the employees until they break and move on. Hire the next sucker with $$$ in his eyes.

    The difference is, the programmer guy might get a RSI, damage to the discs in their back, or have a heart attack, but the factory worker is more likely to get injured by machinery and that is more in your face. If people really are getting injured at the Tesla factory, then shame on Mr. Musk. Elon may not understand work/life balance, or even need it, but the regular folk that actually do the work do.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Tesla related articles on InsideEVs attract serial Tesla bashers just like ants are attracted to a picnic.

      And just as welcome.

      1. Four Electrics says:

        Enough with the bullying. Address the argument, not the person, or you come across as a pro-Tesla bigot.

  4. Scott Franco says:

    Tesla has higher automation than the average. It would be interesting to find out how many of the worker injuries resulted from workers needing to enter or work on automated machine areas, ie., were the workers injured by the requirement to enter the work envelope of the tools.

    I worked with a manufacturing line many years ago where the machines gave a high incidence of injuries. The automation was poorly thought out, requiring the worker to reach into the machine and both insert and remove the part it was working on. This has been largely solved today by automated transfer machines, ie, machines that transfer the work from machining center to machining center down the line.

    1. unlucky says:

      By and large Tesla locks employees out of the automated areas. You can’t go between presses where the pickers transfer parts. And the lines where robots do all the work are boxed in with doors that stop the line if you open them.

      There are some areas where robots and humans work together, most notably final assembly. But they don’t have places where workers work close enough to robots to be in the movement envelope of the robots. Its just not safe.

      1. Tom says:

        Tom Cruise already did that movie. Minority Report…except it was Audi.

    2. Tom says:

      In college I worked for 2 summers at a plastics factory. Some light assembly and other stuff was injection molding machines. It was nice that typically you only did a job for an hour then everyone did a big rotate so you worked 8 stations a day. The shift supervisor provided the cover to do the shift. Anyway the parts being molded didn’t necessarily stay the same day to day. They might run a part in a batch for 2 weeks then swap out molds and make something else. Often times they were the supplier for odd parts.

      Some automatic machines that just spit stuff out and you had to check the quality and some sort of semi-automatic. One such machine made two angled plastic pipe fittings with each press. So you had to place two metal ‘inserts’ into the mold. These inserts formed the hollow part of the pipe and the threads so the metal inserts were threaded. When the mold opened, you reached into the mold (with mitts) and pulled out the two hot pipes that now had metal bolts basically inside them. You stuck two different metal inserts into the mold and closed it. While that pair of plastic pipes was ‘cooking’ You put the two you pulled out into a vise and screwed out the threaded metal inserts. Rinse/repeat every two minutes or so.

      The problem is that when this part was being made, it ran for a couple days like this. Everyone else on the shift was a woman. The inserts were 5 pounds each. And to get them into the mold it involved stretching in quite a ways so was a reach up and to the side so you were leaning in with these two 5 pound dumb bells basically over your head and off to your right two feet. The women were permanent employees and I was just summer help. So they sort of asked real nice if I’d be willing to do this all day because it killed them and half of them couldn’t reach or couldn’t even lift that for an hour straight. Hot as heck too because the building wasn’t air conditioned and you had to sit next to stand next to the mold. They kept me supplied with cold Mountain Dew. Not sure what the other shifts did.

  5. Rick says:

    2015 data is irrelevant to current injury rates.

  6. Peter Stringa says:

    Can anyone explain what kind of organisation Worksafe is? Is it a totally independent organisation or is it related to another organisation?

    If you ask the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration questions do you get all data or specific data? Can a body like Worksafe pose only specific questions to the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration? And can you play with the data and give one organisation some results and another organisation other results depending on who pays for what? But double serious injuries. That really is bad, Elon.

    1. Nix says:

      Worksafe.org is a worker’s rights/social justice organization. They have known connections to the Unions. For example, one of their heads is the AFL-CIO General Counsel. Another was a lawyer for the United Mine Workers of America. Another is the vice president of the AFSCME union.

      They are a group of lawyers with a number of union backgrounds and current union associations who advocate for workers.

      And while their goal is certainly a good goal, and certainly improvement in worker safety is a good thing, this is not a neutral party. They were hired by a union to produce a specific outcome, and they produced that outcome.

      For a point of reference, the Tesla factory used to be a NUMMI factory run by ICE car makers. Back then it had a TCR rate was in the 30-45 range

      https://books.google.com/books?id=LDblemSNDqEC&pg=PA149&lpg=PA149&dq=NUMMI+injury+rate&source
      /establishment_search.html

      The industry average of 6.7 that they claim is just that, an average. That means that half of companies are higher, half are lower. (we don’t actually know that this average is correct, they claim it is the average, but don’t show their work). We don’t actually know if Tesla falls in the upper quintile, or if they are in the middle quintile. They don’t provide that data either.

      ————————————–

      I think the important thing is that Tesla has already begun acting on this, long before this report was issued. Way back in October of last year the added a shift to reduce worker fatigue. Last year Tesla also hired an outside ergonomics consulting company to redesign workstations to reduce repetitive motion injuries. And so far it appears from the initial unofficial numbers that it is reducing injuries to below the 6.7 level. Long term numbers at the end of the year hopefully will confirm that. Hopefully Tesla will continue to drive down their injury rate, but no manufacturer has zero injuries.

  7. Kevin C says:

    How horribly does Tesla culture treat it’s employees?
    I imagine it’s pretty bleak, with no one being able to remotely achieve Musk-like status.
    I hope I’m wrong.
    But I suspect it’s like working for an automotive science-fiction cult. Strive to be like L.Ron Musk. Or else.

    1. Get Real says:

      Whut???

      Not as bleak as your fact-free FUD post!

      1. Kevin C. says:

        Relax dude.

        I’m not anti-Tesla.
        You cannot deny their cult-like status.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          “I’m not anti-Tesla.”

          If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. Even if it claims to be a swan.

          “You cannot deny their cult-like status.”

          The only “cult” here is the cult of serial Tesla bashers who keep trying to paste the “cult” label anyone who refutes the B.S. from serial Tesla bashing FUDsters.

          1. Kevin C says:

            Oi-veh!
            Take a Xanax and begin deep breathing excersizes.
            If I had the cash and multiple lines of credit I’d have 2 Model S’s and a boat load of stock.

            Alright already! I’ll never call Elon L.Ron Musk again.
            I swear on Lord Kimboat and the golden tablets!

  8. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    “Worksafe looked into the matter in detail, following a request by the United Auto Workers.”

    That’s nice. Who is “Workplace”, and why should we believe a “report” from a company so obscure that neither Wikipedia nor, apparently, Google ever heard of it?

    For all we know, this is just one of those marketing firms that will produce a “study” to back up any conclusion that the client wants. Perhaps the above sentence would be more accurate if it read “The United Auto Workers hired a company called ‘Worksafe’ to produce a report using cherry-picked OSHA numbers, to further UAW’s false claim of higher than normal workplace hazards.”

    1. Four Electrics says:

      “Forbes points out Worksafe’s data comes from actual statistics via the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”

      Perhaps you’d care to address the contents of the report itself, rather than spread FUD about the authors?

      1. Nix says:

        Let’s take a look at their numbers.

        First off, they quote 6.7 as the industry average. But it isn’t. The BLS data is split into two categories, just like the rest of the automotive industry (per the North American Industry Classification System). There are passenger car numbers, and truck/SUV numbers. They cherry-picked just the lower passenger vehicle average, even though Tesla also built SUV’s in 2016. The SUV number is higher, at 7.0.

        And they pretend that 6.7 is some sort of industry standard, when it actually represents the BEST rate for automobiles alone in the last 8 years. Here are the numbers for the last 8 years:

        2008 – 6.8
        2009 – 7.3
        2010 – 7.7
        2011 – 6.7
        2012 – 7.2
        2013 – 7.2
        2014 – 7.3
        2015 – 6.7

        So they have cherry picked one specific year of data that is lower than typical years. Keep in mind that even these numbers are just for passenger vehicle manufacturing, and does not include SUV production, like Tesla began doing in early 2016. SUV numbers average about .4 points higher.

        When you look at the quartile
        distribution, Tesla is well below the 3rd quartile median of 9.9 for all automotive manufacturing. That means that they aren’t even anywhere near the worst 25% of car makers, yet they intentionally leave out this data in order to make Tesla’s numbers sound much more dramatic than they really are.
        _______________________

        So now let’s put this all in the proper context, using Tesla’s latest 2016 numbers that most closely reflect their current business practices, and current production of both cars and SUV’s.

        the historical average over the last 8 years for cars + SUV’s is 7.8, and Tesla is at 8.1 for 2016. A difference of only 0.3. Meanwhile, Tesla is 1.8 away from the 9.9 level before they would even be among the worst 25% of car makers. All of the worst 25% of car makers have 9.9 and HIGHER numbers.

        In other words, when you get rid of the cherry-picking and create a proper comparison, and put this into proper context of what numbers it takes to be among the worst 25%, Tesla is much, much closer to having a very average rate than they are from being in the bottom 25% of car makers.

        To me, that certainly brings into question the motivation and background of the authors. If it doesn’t for you, it brings into question YOUR motivation and background.

        _______________________________________

        All data is from https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshsum.htm and was available to these folks when they did their work.

  9. Nix says:

    This unfortunately is one of the disadvantages of working at a company that has only relatively recently begun mass-production. Back in 2011, before they started full Model S production, Tesla’s TCR was 5.7. (For comparison, GM’s worst location in 2011 had a TCR of 15.24 in Martinsburg WV and Ford’s worst location had a TCR of 45.9 in Rancho Cucamonga CA)

    Injury rates are typically higher when a factory first opens. This is true for companies like GM and Ford also. When they open new factories and new assembly lines, their injury rates for those sites are typically higher, and then come down as they identify issues and fix them.

    It looks like Tesla is already working on bringing down their injury numbers, which is a good thing. Hopefully they will continue with the downward trend they saw from 2015 to 2016, and from the preliminary 2017 numbers. Obviously getting their injury numbers lower should always be a priority for even the company with the best numbers.

    1. Joshua Burstyn says:

      I hope so. I see Tesla as being an organization with reasonably noble goals. It would be a shame to think they did not take care of the people who make them great.

      FYI I own a Tesla and think they’re doing great things. I do expect they will keep improving safety though. 🙂