By Karl Voigt
By now our readers may have heard of the Tesla factory’s reputation for work injuries. Nonprofit Worksafe, a worker safety advocacy group, made headlines earlier this year when it reported that the injury rate at Tesla’s Fremont, California, plant was 31% higher than the industry average in 2014 and 2015. Worksafe’s report says Tesla had an overall rate of 8.8 injuries per 100 workers in 2015, with 6.7 being the average for the auto industry. The rate of more serious injuries was 7.9, compared to 3.9 for the industry that year.
Tesla has set some very, very aggressive production goals. This has yielded stress and exhaustion for the factory workers. That pressure and stress has in turn led to more injuries. There are even anecdotal reports of workers passing out while working on the production line. In May, newspaper The Guardian reported that ambulances have responded to the Tesla factory more than 100 times since 2014 for various injuries.
So, what does the chief executive officer of such a company do? Ignore it? Let the workers’ compensation insurance companies sort it out? Harass his employees? Not Elon Musk. Tesla’s founder and leader has vowed that Tesla jobs will be the safest at any automaker in U.S.
First and foremost, he has taken steps to reduce workplace injuries. As an example, there are now three working shifts instead of two. Musk now meets once a week with the factory’s safety team. As a matter of fact, in 2016, Tesla’s injury rate went down significantly.
Musk highlighted his drive to reduce injuries in an email to all Tesla employees. Here’s the text of that communiqué:
“No words can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful.
Going forward, I’ve asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform.
This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from some safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.”
Are you listening, Pennsylvania chief executives?