Tesla is accused of undercounting injuries at its Fremont factory

Tesla’s Fremont factory.
Tesla’s Fremont factory.
Image: Reuters/Joseph White
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A new report is attacking Tesla’s safety record as the electric-car maker races to build more Model 3s.

According to Reveal, a news site from the Center for Investigative Reporting, Tesla has allegedly undercounted injuries at its Fremont car factory to improve its safety record. Its report claims that Tesla has been lowering its official injury count by labeling work-related injuries—including muscle strains, repetitive stress injuries, and exposure to toxic fumes—as personal medical issues or minor accidents.

Citing information from five former members of Tesla’s safety team, the report concludes that the company “put its manufacturing of electric cars above safety concerns.”

Tesla has denied the allegations. In an April 16 company blog post, it said Tesla had actually reduced the injury rate by 25% last year. It portrayed the claims made in the Reveal report as “old, misrepresentative and outright inaccurate information” and an “ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla.”

Reveal’s story cited one source who alleged that the company did not use yellow tape in its Fremont factory to denote walkways because of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s aversion to the color. Tesla called this accusation “truly ridiculous.” The company also said that it used standard injury reporting procedures, and that an independent medical professional reviewed all cases to determine the final classification.

Reveal’s reporters spent months collecting public safety records, and were allowed in to the factory. They also interviewed current employees. Laurie Shelby, Tesla’s vice president for environment, health, and safety, told Reveal that she was confident the company had legally counted injuries and minimized employees’ exposure to hazardous substances. “We are doing proper recordkeeping here at Tesla,” she said.

You can read the full investigation here.