Report Claims Tesla Employees Are Getting Injured, Passing Out

5 months ago by Christopher Smith 43

Tesla

The Tesla Factory in Fremont, California

Is the manufacturer pushing its employees too hard?

These days it seems Tesla Motors and its charismatic CEO Elon Musk can do no wrong. Tesla shares are way up, the forthcoming Model 3 is one of most anticipated cars in recent memory, and even Musk’s crazy tunnel idea is gaining momentum. We dare say, however, that it’s human nature to look for fault when things are going well, and a recent report from the Guardian about Tesla employees passing out while working – among other things – does just that.

Talk of disgruntled employees and harsh conditions at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California isn’t exactly breaking news. Back in February there was a moment of pause when a factory worker voiced concerns about working conditions, followed by a visit from the United Auto Workers union which has tried for some time to unionize Tesla. That bid failed, and with only four official complaints from workers since 2014, it would seem things really aren’t so bad.

According to the Guardian, the situation is much different. The report claims that ambulances have been summoned to the factory “more than 100 times since 2014” in response to a range of ailments; dizziness and fainting among them. Some workers apparently said they were told to keep working around others who had fallen or passed out on the line. Others complained of injuries they say are related to years of working through injuries to avoid possible consequences. The report also mentions a “prevailing mood of mass disappointment over working conditions” that one particular worker said existed at the plant.

Some Model S Sedans Get Assembled In Tesla’s Fremont, California Plant

Then again, the report also cites workers who had considerable pride and praise for the company. Tesla’s track record of safety was also brought up, showing above average reports of illness and injury from 2013 through 2016. Four and a half months into 2017, those reports have dropped well below average.

Does this suggest life as a Tesla employee was bad but is now improving? Was it really ever bad in the first place? For this report, the Guardian claims to have talked with 15 current and former employees, while quoting five directly by name. In contrast, a Tesla spokesperson told the magazine that with “more than 10,000 employees, there will always be isolated incidents that we would like to avoid.”

With a backlog of Model 3 orders there is certainly pressure to maximize production. And though the reports of poor working conditions are very small compared to the total number of employees, such concerns are usually rooted in some measure of reality. On the other hand, popular people and successful companies are often targeted with criticism regardless of whether or not it’s deserved.

Even the best companies will have a few bad apples. The question for us is, does this report shine the spotlight on bad apples, or does it highlight a much bigger issue?

Source: The Guardian

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43 responses to "Report Claims Tesla Employees Are Getting Injured, Passing Out"

  1. Someone out there says:

    Smells like backhanded tactics from the UAW mafia. Classic FUD

    1. Fabian says:

      Agreed. Quite The Coincidence of the timing of this article with the impending release of the model 3 and the stock climbing like a rocket ship.

    2. Martin Winlow says:

      The Guardian is hardly the UK branch of the Mafia! It is one of the oldest and most respected broadsheets in the UK printed media… if somewhat lefty and dry (and we all used to refer to it as ‘The Gruniad’ before electronic printing due to its poor type-setting). What this article and I dare say the original Guardian one have not mentioned is what the same stats for a few comparable car makers are.

      1. Someone out there says:

        I’m not talking about the Guardian but the UAW that planted the article. The Guardian being leftist has no qualms playing along of course.

        1. Steven says:

          Translation:

          I’m a dedicated FOX “news” viewer, and any news outlet that doesn’t totally agree with FOX by definition has a liberal bias.

  2. Vexar says:

    If I read this correctly, combined with the Slavic electrician contractor who fell during construction at part of the factory, and the two or three that were injured with the molten aluminum (one who died), there have been fewer than ten serious injuries in an automotive factory since October, 2010. It sucks that anyone got hurt, much less the one fellow who died. Their TRIR (incident rate) is at 4.6 now. That’s below the average of 6.7 (source [pp. 26]: https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/os/ostb4732.pdf ).
    TRIR figure source:
    https://www.tesla.com/blog/creating-the-safest-car-factory-in-the-world

    1. Thomas Brandenburger says:

      10000 people is bigger than the town I live in.

  3. Bacardi says:

    This is the better version, for an even more slanted version check out CNBC…

  4. SteveSeattle says:

    How does Tesla compare to other manufacturing companies?
    I worked in an office opposite the site of a large aerospace company. Emergency services were called in there at least once per week.

    1. ben says:

      VW between 2.9 and 3.6, page 124(128):
      http://static.globalreporting.org/report-pdfs/2015/30350a18d907235fb2d223b717ea7111.pdf

      I wonder if Tesla is that transparent too?
      The more R&D your company is doing the lower your TRIR will be as sitting at a desk is not that dangerous. This is why its sometimes difficult to compare, pharma companys have TRIR of 0.x for comparison. If you dont leave R&D to subcontractors, your TRIR should be quite a lot lower, as manufacturing is only a small part of your company. You could suppose Teslas rates should be a little lower.

      Another question is, what injuries get reported. If there is quite a lot pressure on workers ,like it seems to be the case for Tesla, not as many incidents might get reported in the first place. You should doubt, that many employees, former employees, unions, organisations and respectable newspapers are less credible than Elon Musk, who was caught downplaying things before. The Guardian has no reason to harm Tesla.

    2. Steven says:

      Heck, I use to work in a call center for a large well known company, we had ambulances come on a weekly basis.

      Working conditions don’t have to be “physically dangerous” for danger to exist. Stress is a real factor.

  5. Jim Whitehead says:

    Is the Guardian a “fair and balanced” paper? Not in a million years. Their own history page makes it sound as leftist as the Washington Post: “The Guardian was at the forefront of the sleaze revelations that contributed to the downfall of the Conservative government in 1997…” https://www.theguardian.com/gnm-archive/2002/jun/06/1

    So the Guardian is almost certainly working to help the cause of unionization in both the Freemont and former Grohman factories. I have noticed that supporters of Big Labor, either ignore or are apologists for the heavy cost of union dues, and the stagnation caused by work rules. Union supporters usually ignore that some unions seem to start off fine but are easily taken over by organized crime figures (see the US Teamster scandals, etc).

    Final Tesla warning, from a guy who once suffered under a NJ union, that was taken over by bosses who had to be tossed out: A former union boss secretary admitted to me, that the scoundrels she worked for always loved to go after and control the fat pension plans of workers. They used ours as their personal piggy bank, while we workers got almost no interest.

    1. Someone out there says:

      Yes the Guardian is strongly leftist.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Well, that would explain it. Thanks to Jim Whitehead and you for revealing the bias here.

    2. Spider-Dan says:

      I must admit that I did not expect the commenters on an EV-focused site, many of whom are greatly concerned about the environment, to play the “Disregard the leftist media” card. But here we are.

      1. Chris O says:

        Left or right, media are never about truth and facts, always about agenda’s.

    3. randomhuman says:

      You do know that most of the media in Europe is on the “left” site. It’s because we’re simply different than Americans in many ways. For example universal healthcare for everybody is considered a good thing, where in America many think it’s a socialist/communist thing, which is not true. I think the Guardian is a good source for many things. I think it’s more about bashing electric cars instead of unionization. Many media companies bash electric cars in Europe also in Germany although you (I assume you’re Americans) would consider them leftist. It’s simply a different mind here. But of course there are always a few in Europe too, who think in left and right…

  6. pjwood1 says:

    Ambulance visits s/b publicly available. No?

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Maybe. Does it matter?

      Actuarial tables showing the rate at which 10,000 people, over a period of years, experience medical emergencies — regardless of what they happen to be doing at the time, even sitting at home resting — should also be publicly available.

      Just saying “Ambulances were summoned to this large factory more than 100 times over a period of years” is meaningless propaganda. A larger number of employees is obviously going to result in more ambulance calls to a large factory, simply because people occasionally have medical emergencies.

  7. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

    You left out the best parts from the Guardian article.

    – Workers “described repetitive stress injuries they linked to working long hours.” Until October 2016, factory workers routinely worked 12 hour shifts 6 days a week for a 72 hour work week. After October 2016, Tesla added a third shift that greatly reduced mandatory overtime, and finally brought in a “team of ergonomics experts.”

    – After adding the third shift, significantly reducing mandatory overtime hours, and bringing in the team of ergonomic experts, the injury rate “magically” improved from years of being well below the industry average to 32% above average.

    – Tesla’s treatment of injured workers discouraged them from reporting injuries. “If workers are assigned to ‘light duty’ work because of an injury, they are paid a lower wage. . . ‘I went from making $22 an hour to $10 an hour,’ said a production worker, who injured his back twice while working at Tesla. ‘It kind of forces people to go back to work.’ ‘No one wants to get a pay cut because they’re injured, so everyone just forces themselves to work through it, added Adam Suarez.’”

    – “[W]orkers said they believed more injuries occurred because, for years, the company did not take worker safety seriously, with some managers belittling their complaints and pressuring them to work through pain. When workers told managers about pain, Sanchez said they responded: ‘We all hurt. You can’t man up?’ Alan Ochoa, another Tesla worker who is currently on a medical leave with an injury, alleged that superiors ‘put the production numbers ahead of the safety and wellbeing of the employees’”.

    1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

      It’s just a coincidence that Tesla added a third shift, greatly reduced mandatory overtime, and brought in a team of ergonomics experts right after the UAW started its unionization drive at the Freemont factory. Just sayin’.

    2. SparkEV says:

      They’re complaining about overtime? Hire an Asian immigrant, and he’d volunteer for every overtime, no need to mandate it. This guy volunteered for every overtime offered and worked an average of 114 hours a week, netting him $270K/yr.

      http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/BART-Janitor-Made-270K-in-Pay-and-Benefits-Last-Year-Report-399550951.html

      It’s not like Musk is holding a gun to workers’ heads to keep them working there. If they don’t like the work or conditions, leave. Tesla isn’t the only company in the universe.

      1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

        That guy is the janitor who was caught on video tape repeatedly disappearing into the porter’s closet for hours on end to apparently sleep through his overtime instead of work. Google it.

        I’m sure the Tesla factory workers wouldn’t mind all the overtime if they got to lay down and sleep instead of assemble cars on the production line.

        1. SparkEV says:

          It’s not clear he wasn’t doing his job in the closet! He’s a janitor, he needs to go in the closet to clean and look for stuff! 🙂

          Even if you assume he didn’t work in the closet, you can do the math. If you assume the Janitor goofed off on average 2 hours per day, that’s still 100 hours per week.

          Besides, Tesla guys can do the same; what will Tesla who’s so strapped for labor is going to do? Fire the guy who’s goofing off 2 hours a day while volunteering to work 114 hours a week, while mandate overtime for other employees?

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      sven repeated UAW propaganda:

      “Until October 2016, factory workers routinely worked 12 hour shifts 6 days a week for a 72 hour work week.”

      The best lies are those that mix in a bit of truth.

      Mostly likely there were some workers who chose to work that much overtime.

      But it’s rather difficult to reconcile the insinuation here that workers were forced to work that much overtime, with the apparent reality that only four official complaints were filed against Tesla, from some 10,000 employees, since 2014. In other words, only 2 out of 10,000 employees per year in 2015 and 2016 found things so bad that they filed a complaint with various government agencies. That number seems remarkably low; I wonder how that compares to other auto makers?

      Go Tesla!

      1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

        How much is Tesla paying you to shill for them? You sure do put in a lot of hours.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          How much of the $3.7 billion that Tesla short-sellers lost just this year, is yours, Sven?

          You sure do put in a lot of hours posting anti-Tesla FUD and B.S. Obviously you have an ulterior motive, to spend so much of your time lying.

          http://insideevs.com/teslas-stock-short-traders-billions/

          1. sven says:

            That’s rich coming from a notorious Tesla stock pumper. You’re just doing the old pump and dump.

            One man’s anti-Tesla FUD and B.S. is another mans truth.

  8. Bill Howland says:

    It appears to be a real issue.

    Automotive News states there were 100 amubulence calls in the past few years, shornness of breath, etc.

    Musk’s response is that the workers must be pushed hard to avoid even more losses in a ‘money losing’ company – his words.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      More “alternative facts” from Bill Howland?

      Like his absurd claim that Tesla Superchargers don’t have the safety cutoff switch mandated by safety regulations. See his post if you doubt he actually claimed that:

      http://insideevs.com/tesla-elon-musk-increasing-capacity-supercharger-locations-top-priority/#comment-1128147

      1. Bill Howland says:

        What a piece of used toilet paper! Anyone with half a brain sees you are totally clueless as to the issue. The only statement I initially made is that it would be ‘nice’ if the permanent SC’s had a readily accessible pilot shut down, regardless of the legalities. But Its not a great concern of mine since only a few of my friends use them, and the likelihood of problems is, to date, relatively low. Everything in life is pretty much ‘at your own risk’, excepting those who spend their entire 63 years in mommie’s clutches.

        You are still in romper room by comparison. Time to get out of Mommie’s Basement, same as the SuperDope.

        Kansas, btw, is one of the very few areas of the country that doesn’t statewide accept the National Fire Protection Association. But any place I’ve ever been to accepts them.

      2. Bill Howland says:

        “Absurd Claim” ?? Was just at the Grimsby, Ontario Supercharger – first SC I’ve ever seen without a stockade fence around it. No driver accessible shutdown.

        The one nearest to me in Clarence, NY doesn’t have anything either.

        So – since this is such a big deal with you – prove that I’m wrong.

        But you are just being silly since its not a major concern of mine. I currently don’t use the facilities myself.

        The public facilities I use, and my home facilities, are adequate in every way.

  9. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Looks to me like the UAW union activists are resorting to sour grapes tactics, creating fake news reports in frustration over their (deservedly) failed attempt to manipulate Tesla’s Fremont workers into joining their “too big to care about lowly workers” union.

    Shame on The Guardian for publishing fake news. They should check their sources more carefully.

    1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

      Shame on Pu-Pu for creating alternative facts in his comments.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        I’m sure those who frequently read InsideEVs comments know which of us regularly posts “alternative facts”, Sven… and which of us never do.

        1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

          Frequent readers know that Pu-Pu regularly posts “alternative facts.”

          Pu-Pu “alternative fact” #84,432:
          “There isn’t any compelling evidence that anyone has died due to a fire in a Tesla car. . . Some of those cars did catch fire after the crash — when those people inside were, with almost mathematical certainty, already dead. Leave it to a serial Tesla basher to try to twist facts to claim they ‘died in Tesla car fires.'”

          Actual “real facts” from the Indianapolis Star newspaper:
          “Speckman, 27, and McCarthy, 44, were killed when McCarthy’s 2015 Model S crashed into a tree and parking garage then exploded near Illinois and 16th streets shortly after 1 a.m. Nov. 3.”

          The vehicle caught fire and burned quickly. Firefighters arrived to find a 150-yard debris field and exploding battery cells exploding.”

          “One witness told police he was driving slowly past when the Tesla exploded.”

          “Parts of the vehicle blew into the air,” the witness told investigators.

          McCarthy died of burns and smoke inhalation, according to investigators.

          Speckman, investigators said, died of crash-related injuries. The fire was a contributing factor

          . . .

          “Indianapolis Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Jones said rescue efforts were hampered by the exploding battery cells.”

          “‘Some of those smaller cells that had broken apart were firing off almost like projectiles around the rescuers,’ Jones told reporters hours after the crash.”

          “Firefighters are experts at putting out fires in gasoline and even hybrid vehicles, but Jones said they had never before seen anything like the blaze in the Tesla.

          ‘Lithium ion batteries, they burn really hot,’ Jones said. ‘To extinguish that fire takes copious amounts of water.’

          Firefighters freed McCarthy, a former FBI agent, from the vehicle about 20 minutes after they arrived on the scene. He was taken to Eskenazi Hospital, where he later died.

          http://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2017/02/08/tesla-model-s-crash-investigation-drunken-driving-indianapolis/97597708/

        2. Bill Howland says:

          Pushi just sits around in Mommie’s Basement at the young age of 63 years old, will never buy any kind of EV – even a cheap used EV for a relative, and, in addition to what he has said to you SVEN, apparently DOES NOT REALIZE the typical permanently installed Supercharger installation, for whatever reason, does not have a Tesla Driver Accessible shut off button or switch of any kind for anything.

          Now perhaps in the event of a problem, people could call HQ and ask if they can remotely trip the main breaker – now that would be a simple useful addition – but as far as quickly doing something there is no facility to do that, that is if for whatever reason the plug to the car can’t be pulled.

          Pushi rarely gets his CAN out of the basement, therefore he is clueless as to what is an ‘absurd claim’ or not, and when I challenge him on his statements (which is all the time since he has trouble with facts), he just clams up.

  10. Scott Franco says:

    OMG there is a LEAF in your Tesla parking lot!!!

    Get a leaf blower and get rid of it!

  11. Mister G says:

    Once the robots are in place workers will be begging for a job LOL

  12. Spider-Dan says:

    I never cease to be amazed at how quickly many of the otherwise staunchly environmentalist commenters instantly become hard-right anti-union conservatives any time there’s a story about Tesla’s workforce.

    1. Chris O says:

      Unions are necessary to counter the power of the “capitalist elite”that would otherwise resort to exploitation of workers in order to maximize profits or simply to survive in a highly competitive environment.

      Sadly trade unions like UAW have a history of self serving goals and tactics that are closer to organized crime than looking out for workers.

      On the upside: clearly even the possibility of UAW swooping will motivates companies to make sure working conditions for their employees are at least tolerable.

      …and it never ceases to amaze me how commenters (not necessarily you btw)who usually seem more than sympathetic to causes of assorted vested interests like big oil and big car will suddenly show an unexpected socialist side of themselves when it serves to discredit Tesla.

    2. Bill Howland says:

      Thankfully, the Intelligence Quotient of those making seemingly contradictory statements is what you’d expect – very low for all to see.

      Why people enjoy making themselves look like idiots is beyond me. Perhaps they think no one ELSE will notice since the ones with any IQ to speak of rarely challenge Boobus Americanus.

  13. Some Guy says:

    100 times ambulance call within 3 years sounds a lot, but it is a factory with several 1000 workers, especially in US where there are opportunistic lawyers hiding under every second stone.

    Where I work here in Europe, there are company rules that the ambulance has to be called not only for serious stuff but (for legal reasons, in order to avoid law suits from employees and more particular bad press) also minor injuries (which might become serios when not treated otherwise). Got a paper cut in the office while moving a pile of paper, that could be treated with a simple band aid? You get a ride in the ambulance around here. Not feeling well after lunch for too much eating? Ambulance ride it is.

    I figure that the ambulance comes about 30-50 times per year per 1000 workers in the place were I work, but maybe only 3-5 of those injuries (per 1000 workers) actually result in sickleave, the rest is minor stuff.

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