Tesla factories are not as safe for employees as Tesla would have you believe, according to a report from RevealNews.org, a nonprofit news operation based out of the Bay Area. The company reportedly misreported injuries at its factory in Fremont, California, to make things seem better than they actually are. “Company officials labeled toxic exposures, muscle strains and repetitive stress injuries as personal medical issues or minor accidents requiring only first aid, lowering its official injury count.”
Among the more baffling details in the report are several sections about how Elon Musk’s personal tastes appear to have affected the factory’s safety for the worse, “his preferences … were well known and led to cutting back on those standard safety signals.” Musk, apparently, really hates the color yellow. So instead of using the aforementioned hue, lane lines on the factory floor are painted in shades of gray. (Tesla denies this and sent Reveal photos of “rails and posts” painted yellow in the factory.) He also is not into having “too many signs” or the beeping sound forklifts make in reverse. All things that would seem, uh, important to keeping staff safe. “It’s just a matter of time before somebody gets killed,” a former safety lead said of the conditions in the factory. One employee attempted to call attention to these problems before eventually resigning:
A few months into her job, White became so alarmed that she 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.” […]
In her March 2017 resignation letter, White recounted the time she told her boss, Seth Woody, “that the plant layout was extremely dangerous to pedestrians.” Woody, head of the safety team, told her “that Elon didn’t want signs, anything yellow (like caution tape) or to wear safety shoes in the plant” and acknowledged it “was a mess,” she wrote.
Tesla, in a post on the company blog, denies all of the allegations in the report. “The writers at Reveal have published an article that paints 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.” Reveal’s story says many of its sources were not involved with ongoing unionization efforts.