Electric car maker Tesla is being accused of underreporting and mischaracterizing worker injuries at its Fremont factory in order to make its safety record appear to be better than it is, claims a new report.
Reveal, a news site from the Center for Investigative Reporting, says Tesla has been lowering its official injury count by classifying musculoskeletal injuries, toxic fume exposure and other work-related injuries as personal medical issues or minor accidents. The report concludes that the company “put its manufacturing of electric cars above safety concerns.”
The company employs about 10,000 workers at its Freemont plant.
Tesla is denying the claims. The company released a statement charging that the report paints "a completely false picture of Tesla and what it's like to work there" and describing it as the result of "an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters."
The United Automobile Workers union filed charges last year with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Tesla had illegally intimidated workers who were attempting to organize a union at the plant.
Reveal reporters Will Evans and Alyssa Jeong Perry based their article on OSHA injury and illness records, internal Tesla documents, workers compensation records, and 911 call data as well as interviews with dozens of current and former Fremont factory workers and safety experts.
Laurie Shelby, Tesla Vice President for Environment, Health and Safety, told Reveal that the company has resolved its past safety problems and was accurate in its reporting of worker injuries.
Tesla has been under fire for repeatedly failing to meet its production quotas for the Model 3, an affordable electric sports sedan which should travel about 220 miles on a single charge. Tesla head Elon Musk has blamed many of the delays on an overreliance on the use of automation in the manufacturing process.
One of the more bizarre claims in the report is that the Freemont factory floor does not have safe pedestrian lanes marked with bright yellow tape on the floor because Tusk has an aversion to color. The lanes instead are painted different shades of gray.