A Not So Revealing Story

The Tesla Team, April 16, 2018

We welcome constructive criticism, but those who care about journalistic integrity should strive for the truth above all. Unfortunately, the writers at Reveal have published an article that paints a completely false picture of Tesla and what it is actually like to work here. In our view, what they portray as investigative journalism is in fact an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla. The piece even includes an interview with Worksafe – the same organization that the UAW enlisted to publish a negative report against Tesla last year, and whose board includes labor union officials and advocates.

Our goal is to be the safest factory on Earth. Last year, despite going through extreme challenges building an entirely new Model 3 production system, we nonetheless reduced our injury rate by 25%. Through a lot of hard work, our injury rate – which we diligently track, record, and update – is half what it was in the final years GM and Toyota owned and ran the same Fremont factory before it closed and Tesla took it over.

The report suggests Tesla doesn’t accurately track injuries or that we mislabeled or undercounted injuries to make our record look better than it actually is. We believe in transparency and would never intentionally misrepresent our safety record to our employees or the public. Reveal showed us a number of cases where they claimed injuries should have been documented as work-related rather than personal. In fact, we have reviewed and confirmed that the recorded injuries Reveal disputed to us were properly recorded by Tesla. Their assessment reflects a lack of understanding about how injury reporting works. During the process of determining if an injury is work-related or personal, all employers rely heavily on evaluations made by third-party medical professionals who talk at length with employees, and review their personal medical histories and the specific facts and circumstances of each individual case.

To ensure we are being as accurate in our reporting as possible, we want our managers and supervisors to err on the side of assuming that an injury is work-related when it is first reported by an employee. Moreover, the law requires that you start from this assumption. After a thorough review with a third-party medical professional, it sometimes becomes clear that what initially was thought to be work-related (and described as such) is in fact personal. As with any case, as information is provided that affects the classification, we update the log accordingly. This is not unusual to Tesla and is common across industries.

Reveal's reporters have spent several months searching for old, misrepresentative and outright inaccurate information about safety at Tesla’s Fremont factory. Since last fall, employees have complained to us that they’ve felt harassed by these reporters after being tracked down on social media, getting unexpected phone calls without knowing how their cell numbers were obtained, and even being visited in Tesla’s parking lot and at their homes unannounced.

Although we welcomed the reporters into our factory so they could see what it’s really like to work here, and invited them to speak with current employees who wanted to share their experiences, it’s clear from their article that they largely ignored what they heard and saw. Instead, they focused on old injuries and incidents, and found a tiny minority of individuals who had negative things to say about the company and who fit their pre-conceived narrative. We know these opinions are not representative of the 37,000 employees at Tesla, because in our most recent anonymous company survey, our production employees overwhelmingly agreed that the company values their health, safety and well-being.

Here’s a truth table that debunks more of their false claims:

Fiction Fact
We don’t accurately report injuries involving temporary workers at the factory, and we revised our 2016 OSHA 300 logs to include additional temporary work hours to lower our injury rate. When we identified some work hours and injuries that had not previously been shared with us by temp agencies prior to the submission of our 2016 OSHA 300 logs, we updated our logs to make them as accurate as possible. There is nothing nefarious about this. We’re just trying to be very accurate.
We have an aversion to using the color yellow in the factory to promote safety because we supposedly think it’s unattractive. This is truly ridiculous. Anyone who’s been in the factory can see that the color yellow is everywhere.
We’ve done little to improve safety following previous injuries at the factory. In addition to making significant improvements to the build process of Model S and Model X, we designed Model 3 specifically with safety in mind. We’ve also hired a VP of Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS), and continue to grow that team significantly. Each department has a Safety Team that meets regularly to increase safety awareness and recommend improvements, many of which have already been implemented. We’ve also increased safety communications and signage in the factory, and improved our Return to Work program so that employees get paid their normal wage even if they work a less demanding job while recovering from an injury. These are just a few examples of how we continue to work towards our safety goals.
Employees do not get enough training. All new manufacturing employees participate in a multi-day training program where they learn the essentials of manufacturing, safety and ergonomics in our state-of-the-art training facility. This all happens before they ever even step foot on the factory floor, and once they do, they continue to receive on-the-job training to ensure they’re working safely.

This is not to say that there aren’t real issues that need to be dealt with at Tesla or that we’ve made no mistakes with any of the 37,000 people who work at our company. However, there should be absolutely no question that we care deeply about the well-being of our employees and that we try our absolute hardest to do the right thing and to fail less often. With each passing month, we improve safety further and will keep doing so until we have the safest factory in the world by far. We welcome any suggestions that might help achieve that goal.