One Year In: Tesla Safety Update
Laurie Shelby with the winning team of the Find It-Fix It competition during Tesla’s 2018 Environmental Health and Safety Week
Last October, I joined Tesla to oversee its Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) team. Reporting directly to Elon and regularly meeting with him, I’ve enjoyed Tesla’s full support as I expanded the company’s global EHS team to 250 employees, adding 35 people at the Fremont factory alone. Over the past year, it’s been clear to me that nothing is more important to Tesla than the health and well-being of its employees. We are the largest manufacturer in the state of California, and while other U.S. auto manufacturers continue to outsource skilled jobs and safety standards, Tesla is creating and keeping more jobs right here in the United States, allowing us to control quality and safety directly. And the result is that our injury rate has continued to trend downward in 2018.
My own safety philosophy, honed during 30 years in the profession, is first and foremost based on prevention and mitigation of risk. At Tesla, that means an intense focus on the prevention of significant injuries. Major injuries are avoided when we learn from small mistakes and address them proactively and aggressively before they become something serious, thereby decreasing the possibility that a life-altering injury will occur.
On Wednesday, Elon invited me to share the safety improvements we’ve made this past year with investors on our quarterly earnings call because this is so important to him personally. I am really proud of what we are doing at Tesla and here are some of the highlights:
- In June 2018, Tesla began the transition to a new, improved occupational health clinic in the Fremont factory, managed by Access Omnicare. Overseen by a leading California orthopedic surgeon specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries (which comprise approximately 85-90% of injuries at Tesla), Tesla’s decision to place a specialized occupational health clinic on site is cutting edge in the field of workplace health. Previously, Fremont’s health facility provided a different scope of services, operating as a wellness clinic focused primarily on triage and first aid. Tesla’s new clinic offers more specialized, on-site care and is staffed by a team of three full-time physicians, who provide on-site medical assessments and precise diagnoses of our workers’ conditions. Workers who suffer work-related injuries are provided with expert, on-site treatment from the very start, rather than having to wait to be referred to a specialist. Meanwhile, workers who come to the clinic with a non-work-related injury or condition still receive triage and emergency care.
- Since the launch of our new clinic, roughly half of our vendors have added Access Omnicare as a clinic provider, something the law requires third-party businesses do before their contract workers can be treated by an on-site clinical provider (though triage and emergency care will always be provided, as needed). These contract employees are now eligible for regular, comprehensive treatment at Access Omnicare. Tesla is in the process of instituting this for the remaining vendors and anticipate all will be utilizing the clinic in the same way Tesla employees do by early 2019.
- Earlier this year, we also introduced an Early Symptom Intervention program, which involves proactively sending professional athletic trainers out to the factory lines to identify potential injuries before they occur, offering on-site evaluations and suggestions for improved ergonomic safety. In just a few months, the training team has seen very encouraging results. Since the program kicked off, the trainers have conducted nearly 6,400 consultations with Tesla employees on our General Assembly, Seats, and Production Control lines, and we’re adding even more trainers.
- As part of our commitment to operating the safest factories, Tesla recognizes it needs to share best practices and constantly push the frontiers on industrial safety. We’ve joined national safety organizations and think tanks including the Transplant Automotive Safety Forum (TASF), the National Safety Council, and ORCHSE, which among other things, provides recordkeeping consultation if there are ever questions around whether an injury is or isn’t recordable. We have also collaborated with University programs, including the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. Tesla has also engaged outside experts as a resource and to advise us on ways we can improve.
- This summer, Cal-OSHA completed a comprehensive four-month investigation into our OSHA recordkeeping practices for the entire Fremont factory. This included multiple onsite visits and meetings, and seven documentation requests, including a review of legally mandated records, injury logs, Tesla’s safety policies, and more. After this extensive review, we’re pleased that Cal-OSHA identified only two minor issues: an extension cord connected to a fan that created a potential trip hazard (which was addressed immediately during the inspection), and one small discrepancy in the date of when a single injury occurred, though it was logged correctly in our 2018 records. This was promptly clarified as an administrative error with Cal OSHA and confirmed by the medical provider. We recognize we’re not perfect, but this is further proof of Tesla’s focus on accurate reporting and transparency.
- Finally, we launched “Find It-Fix It” at the end of 2017, a new program that encourages and rewards employees who speak up when they see a safety risk – and asks them to be part of the solution so that we can quickly correct it. I believe in going to the source and listening to people on the line to get the most reliable information about where and how we can improve. That is why our safety specialists do not sit at desks—they are embedded in factory operations. It’s critical that leaders hear directly from our factory associates, which is why my team and I spend as much time as possible on the lines watching and talking directly with production personnel. Their concerns are ultimately my concerns and it is this kind of partnership that leads to the best safety results for the company and our employees.
I’m honored to work at Tesla. There is still a lot more to be done in order to become the safest company in the world, but I am proud of how far we’ve come over the past 12 months.