California regulators opened 2 new investigations into the safety of Tesla’s factory in September

Concerns about workplace safety have been a point of controversy for Tesla.

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Concerns about workplace safety have been a point of controversy for Tesla.
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Tesla

  • California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) opened two new inspections in September into the workplace conditions at Tesla‘s factory in Fremont.
  • According to the agency, the first was opened on September 4 and was prompted by an incident reported to regulators in which a contract worker became stuck between two garbage bins after a forklift pushed one of the bins.
  • The second was opened on September 5 and came after an incident reported to the agency in which a contract worker’s fingers were caught in a torque gun, according to Cal-OSHA.
  • There are currently six open inspections into Tesla‘s Fremont factory and one into its store in Rocklin.
  • “Tesla takes safety extremely seriously and is constantly identifying safety improvements across our global operations to help us become one of the safest places to work,” a Tesla spokesperson said.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) has opened two new inspections in September into the workplace conditions at Tesla’s factory in Fremont.

The first was opened on September 4 and was prompted by an incident reported to the agency in which a contract worker became stuck between two garbage bins after a forklift pushed one of the bins. The incident was reported to regulators on August 30, but the agency did not say when the incident occurred.

The second was opened on September 5 and came after an incident reported to the agency in which a contract worker’s fingers were caught in a torque gun. According to the agency, the incident occurred on August 24 and was reported to regulators on August 31.

There are currently six open inspections into Tesla’s Fremont factory and one into its store in Rocklin. Inspections do not necessarily lead to financial penalties or findings of wrongdoing.

“Tesla takes safety extremely seriously and is constantly identifying safety improvements across our global operations to help us become one of the safest places to work,” a Tesla spokesperson said.

[Have a Tesla news tip? DO you work at Tesla and want to share your story? Contact this reporter atmmatousek@businessinsider.com.]

In August, Cal-OSHA proposed $1,000 of fines following an inspection opened in April. According to citations sent to Tesla by Cal-OSHA, the agency proposed a $400 fine due to Tesla’s failure to report a worker’s injury from February within seven days and a $600 fine for failing to clear extension cords from the factory floor. The Tesla spokesperson told Business Insider that the agency found only a single misplaced extension cord and said the company is appealing the $400 fine because it says the injury in question was reported correctly. The spokesperson gave Business Insider the following statement:

“Cal-OSHA recently completed a comprehensive four month investigation into occupational health and OSHA recordkeeping practices at our Fremont factory – which is home to more than 15,000 employees, contractors and temporary workers. This included multiple onsite visits and meetings, and seven documentation requests, including a review of air monitoring and maintenance records, injury logs, Tesla’s safety policies, and more. After this extensive review, Cal-OSHA identified only two minor issues: an extension cord connected to a fan that created a potential trip hazard which we addressed immediately during OSHA’s inspection, and one small discrepancy in the date of when a single injury occurred, which we are working with OSHA to appeal since the injury was logged accurately in our 2018 records. While we’re not perfect, this is further proof of Tesla’s focus on accurate reporting, as well as the continued improvements we’ve made to our safety program and injury rate – which has declined dramatically. We care deeply about the well-being of our employees and we will continue to work with them until we have the safest factory in the world.”

A Cal-OSHA spokesperson said Tesla has told the agency’s appeals board that it intends to appeal the fines, but has not yet submitted the paperwork to do so.

The Tesla spokesperson said the company has implemented a new system for tracking safety incidents and has taken a number of steps to promote the rapid identification and prevention of safety issues, including encouraging employees to report injury symptoms early and working with athletic trainers to identify and fix areas on the production line that could lead to repetitive motion injuries.

Tesla employees told Business Insider in an August report that the company has improved its workplace safety, particularly over the past year.

In a September 7 email to employees that was posted to the company’s website, CEO Elon Musk announced that Laurie Shelby, the company’s vice president of environmental, health, and safety, would report directly to him and said worker safety is a priority.

“Your safety and just generally making sure that you love coming to work is extremely important, which is why [Shelby] will report directly to me. We are working hardcore on having the safest (and most fun) work environment in the automotive industry by far,” he said.

Concerns about workplace safety have been a point of controversy for Tesla. In February, a post on Tesla’s website written by Shelby said the company’s “total recordable incident rate” had fallen by 25% since 2016 and was in line with the industry average. Shelby also outlined steps Tesla had taken to better manage and prevent workplace injuries.

But an April report from The Center for Investigative Reporting said Tesla had misreported workplace injuries, avoided some safety markings for aesthetic reasons, and insufficiently trained some employees for dangerous work. The investigative-journalism outlet said it interviewed more than three dozen current and former Tesla employees and reviewed hundreds of pages of documents, including internal records and correspondence related to injury reporting.

Tesla denied the allegations in the report and called it “a completely false picture of Tesla and what it is actually like to work here.”

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