California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA), has launched a probe into whether Tesla violated workplace safety rules in its Northern California factory, leading to workplace injuries. According to USA Today news report, the agency is particularly looking into Tesla’s injuries log at the Fremont plant to make sure that serious injuries are directly reported to Cal/OSHA, as required under the law. The agency’s regulations define a serious injury as someone who requires hospitalization for more than 24 hours for something other than medical observation or an incident where permanent injuries or disfigurement have occurred.
Inadequate Reporting and Safety Violations
The investigation was triggered by a report this week from the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, which said Tesla failed to report more serious injuries to improve its safety track record. The Reveal report cited former environmental, health and safety professionals as well as company documents and included details that suggested employees were eager not to displease their boss, Elon Musk, who sleeps at the factory to oversee production.
In one incident, according to the Reveal report, an employee charged with safety who recommended the use of yellow lines to mark hazards was told that wasn’t going to happen because “Elon doesn’t like the color yellow.” Last year, worker advocacy group Worksafe released a report pointing out that Tesla’s injury rate was 31 percent higher than the industry average in 2015 and only marginally improved in 2016.
Tesla has not disputed that analysis, but has said it has made great strides in worker safety since then. Musk announced Tuesday that his Fremont plant would run 24/7 to meet the goal of producing 6,000 cars a week by the end of June. The automaker has been behind on its production of the new Model 3, a product critical to Tesla’s long-term success.
Workplace Safety is Crucial
Given Musk’s goal of producing 6,000 vehicles a week and the fact that he sleeps at the plant to make sure workers meet their goals, one can only imagine the high-pressure environment this must have turned into over the last year or so. Given this already stressed environment, it is critical that the plant follows safety measures diligently to prevent worker injuries, considering their poor record in that department.
It is important that injured workers remember their rights. They need to report their injury to a supervisor as soon as possible and file a workers’ compensation claim to seek benefits. Remember, the law prohibits employers or supervisors from dissuading workers to file workers’ compensation claims or threaten them with reprisal for doing so. Workers also cannot be retaliated against for blowing the whistle on safety violations in their workplace. If you have questions about your rights in the workplace, please contact an experienced workplace injury lawyer for more information.