Tesla CEO Elon Musk is putting style and looks at the automakers California plant over the safety of the companys employees, according to a report Monday from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Tesla has covered up records of serious injuries at its main campus, making the injury numbers look less severe, the report noted. Musk also places a higher level of importance on appearances than safety protocols, some former Tesla safety experts alleged.
The companys former lead safety professional asked her boss why Tesla lacked clearly marked pedestrian lanes at the Fremont, Calif., facility. Her boss responded: “Elon does not like the color yellow,” according to CIRs report.
Injuries are stacking up as a result. One employee, Tarik Logan, suffered headaches in April 2017 from the fumes of a toxic glue he had to use at the plant. He texted his mom: “Im n hella pain for real something aint right.”
Logans inhalation problems never made it onto the official injury logs. Reports from other factory workers with sprains and other injuries suffered while cobbling together Teslas fleet of electric vehicles didnt get logged either.
Company officials instead labeled the injuries personal issues or minor incidents requiring only first aid, according internal documents CIR obtained during its investigation.
Justine White, the safety lead, oversaw safety between September 2016 to January 2017 for the thousands of workers on Teslas general assembly line. She was responsible for responding to injury complaints, reviewing injury records, and teaching safety classes.
“Everything took a back seat to production,” White told CIR. “Its just a matter of time before somebody gets killed.”
White became alarmed at the level of safety violations that she eventually wrote to a human resources manager that “the risk of injury is too high. People are getting hurt every day and near-hit incidents where people are getting almost crushed or hit by cars is unacceptable.”
Tesla defended its record. A company spokesman provided a statement to CIR accusing online outlet Reveal, which publishes all of CIRs work, of being a union rebel-rouser bent on painting “a completely false picture of Tesla and what it is actually like to work here.”
“In our view, what they portray as investigative journalism is in fact an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla,” the statement reads.
Tesla has faced similar accusation in the past. Jose Moran, who worked as a production assistant with the company, claimed in a Medium piece in February 2017 that the factorys “machinery is often not ergonomically compatible with our bodies,” and requires “too much twisting and turning and extra physical movement to do jobs that could be simplified if workers input were welcomed.”
Moran also wrote that the workers are often faced with “excessive mandatory overtime” and earn paltry wages when compared to the national average of $25.58 hourly for most autoworkers in the U.S. He said the astronomical cost of living in California makes Teslas current $21-an-hour wage less than livable for many workers.
“Recently, every worker was required to sign a confidentiality policy that threatens consequences if we exercise our right to speak out about wages and working conditions,” Moran also noted.
Tesla has also refuted Morans claims and said it doesnt prohibit discussion of wages or working conditions, though the company did acknowledge forcing employees to sign a confidentiality policy related to “a rash of unauthorized leaks to the press and social media about product launches, specifications, and improvements — information that is critical to Teslas continued growth and success.”
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