Tesla worker safety claims: 2 Investigates pulls records

FREMONT (KTVU) -- 2 Investigates has uncovered more questions about safety at the Tesla factory in Fremont following complaints from an employee posted in an online blog post.

Jose Moran told 2 Investigates on Monday he’s worked for the company for four-and-a-half years. He said employees are underpaid and overworked. He added he is currently on restricted duty due to a work-related shoulder injury.

“Workers are fed up with long hours. That they’re spending more time at work than at home, and a lot of people feel they can’t confide in management or HR especially about worker safety,” said Moran in a February Facebook post.

2 Investigates took a closer look at claims of unsafe working conditions and requested worker safety incidents reported at Tesla from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA. We found 21 incidents reported to the state since 2010. Inspectors recorded 35 safety violations. Nineteen were either settled or withdrawn. Sixteen included fines to Tesla.

Some of the workplace accidents included machinery amputating workers’ fingers and a Tesla car hitting a worker. In that 2014 incident, Cal/OSHA inspectors found a Tesla supervisor told an untrained driver to drive the car. That driver crashed into a janitor and caused serious injuries.

“Part of the reason I wrote that op-ed was that it was time to speak up. Somebody had to get the attention to Tesla that we want to form a unionize,” said Moran.

Tesla is now highlighting its employee safety improvements at the company’s Fremont factory in response to Moran’s publicized concerns.

In a statement to 2 Investigates, a Tesla spokesperson wrote “The safety of our employees is extremely important to us and we have consistently worked to make safety improvements for all our employees. Last Fall, Tesla hired thousands of additional workers and added a third shift specifically to reduce the strain on our employees.”

The spokesperson also said the company discusses safety with employees before every shift and have dedicated health and safety experts assigned to every team in the factory.

In Moran’s February 9th post published on Medium, he wrote “Preventable injuries happen often…Many of us have been talking about unionizing, and have reached out to United Automobile Workers (UAW) for support.”

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk directly responded to that post writing in a statement”…this is not the first time we have been the target of a professional union organizing efforts such as this. The safety and job satisfaction of our employees here at Tesla has always been extremely important to us.”

Moran told 2 Investigates he was disappointed by Musk’s response. He said he is not currently officially affiliated with any union but has reached out for help from UAW.

For perspective on the statistics 2 Investigates found, the number of Tesla worker safety incidents reported to Cal/OSHA is about half the national average. However, it’s also important to note the rate recorded by the federal government only include injuries or illnesses that were severe enough to warrant days away from work. 

By KTVU reporter Candice Nguyen