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Tesla’s injury rate at Fremont factory criticized in new report amid union push

The injury rate of Tesla’s workers at its Fremont factory came into the spotlight recently, especially last week after Tesla preemptively defended the safety of its factory and warned of a ‘media push’ from the auto workers union, which has been leading a unionization effort at the factory over the past few months.

Now a new report, seemingly still part of the union campaign, is again going after Tesla’s injury rate at Fremont factory – while Tesla insists that it is now the lowest injury rate in the industry.

Earlier this month, Tesla claimed that the factory’s total recordable incident rate (TRIR) through the end of Q1 2017 was 4.6 – ahead of the industry average of 6.7.

Today, in the new report published by Worksafe, a California nonprofit for worker safety, and publicized by a PR strategist for labor unions, they claim that there’s not enough data for Tesla to make the claim:

“In addition, the report analyzes Tesla’s recent public statements that its injury rates have declined, which are based on a comparison of total injury rates between the first quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. Our conclusion, for reasons detailed below, is that the injury data Tesla has recorded so far for Q1 of 2017 is too preliminary to be considered accurate given Tesla’s erratic reporting patterns. And perhaps most importantly, one quarter is not a sufficient length of time to accurately identify a meaningful and lasting trend in injury reduction.”

Instead, they focused on older reports from 2014 to 2017 using OSHA Form 300 requests made by employees.

They listed their “key findings”:

  • Tesla’s total recordable incidence rate (TRIR) in 2015 was 31 percent higher than the industry average (8.8 injuries per 100 workers, compared to 6.7 for the automobile manufacturing industry as a whole). The TRIR represents the average number of nonfatal injuries per 100 full-time workers. This means that workers at the company’s Fremont plant were injured more than the average automobile industry worker.
  • Tesla’s total injury rate for 2016 was 8.1 injuries per 100 workers. While official industry-wide statistics are not yet available for 2016, based on the previous three years of industry data it is very reasonable to expect that the company’s rates will again surpass the industry average, which has stayed relatively constant over time.
  • The rate of serious injuries at Tesla’s Fremont plant—those that result in days away from work, restricted duty, or job transfer—was approximately double the industry average for 2015. This measurement is known as the DART rate. The DART rate at Tesla in 2015 was 7.9 compared to the industry average of 3.9. Tesla’s DART rate for 2016 was 7.3, which based on the previous eight years of industry data, it is reasonable to expect will again be higher than the industry average.

We asked Tesla for a comment on the report and the company acknowledged “challenges in the past”, but they insist that they “now have the lowest injury rate in the industry by far”:

“We may have had some challenges in the past as we were learning how to become a car company, but what matters is the future and with the changes we’ve made, we now have the lowest injury rate in the industry by far. Our goal is to have as close to zero injuries as humanly possible and to become the safest factory in the auto industry.”

In a blog post last week, Tesla listed several changes that they made over the past few months in order to increase safety at the plant, mainly the addition of a third shift, which reduced overtime/fatigue.

Tesla has now over 10,000 workers in Fremont as it is preparing to start Model 3 production. The auto workers union (UAW) has been publicizing complaints about work conditions from a few employees, but it’s hard to see how representative it is of the overall morale at the factory considering it grew to over 10,000 workers this year.

Here’s Worksafe’s report in full:

[scribd id=349334651 key=key-jLmN4Ar94SzdMgbzMzZq mode=scroll]

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