As Tesla revs up the excitement for its groundbreaking Cybertrucks, a darker narrative unfolds at the heart of production — the Gigafactory in Austin, Texas. Recent revelations expose a series of alarming incidents, from a robot allegedly injuring a worker to a casting machine explosion.
Disturbing incidents, as revealed by injury reports submitted to OSHA, indicate that one out of every 21 workers at the Gigafactory experienced injuries in 2022. Among the reported incidents is a harrowing account of a robot allegedly goring an engineer, resulting in injuries and a distressing trail of blood. Another incident in August 2022 involved a worker whose ankle got entangled under a cart, leading to a prolonged absence from work. Shortly thereafter, another worker suffered a head injury, requiring an 85-day recovery.
Recent reports shed light on a worker who was concussed by an explosion in the metal casting area at the beginning of 2023. The explosion, triggered by water inadvertently mixing into the molten aluminum press machine, allegedly sent a ball of fire and smoke into the air, causing equipment damage. The reporting on whether Tesla notified OSHA about this incident remains unclear.
Additional concerns are raised about a molding machine that reportedly malfunctioned, spitting out molten metal without proper sealing. When a worker proposed a solution to address the issue, they were allegedly reprimanded, reflecting a potential prioritization of production speed over worker safety.
In June, contractors installing metal grating for elevated walkways at the factory faced a difficult situation, falling to the ground due to a lack of protective equipment. Fractures and a punctured lung ensued, leading to OSHA inspection and fines for the contractors. The report also details incidents of air conditioning ducts, steel beams, and other construction materials falling perilously close to auto workers.
These revelations compound Tesla’s existing track record of workplace incidents, with its Fremont factory in California already under scrutiny for a higher-than-average injury rate. Accusations of underreported injuries and neglecting hazards in outdoor assembly areas have incurred fines. Elon Musk’s stance against employee unionization and selecting a “right to work” state for the Texas factory add layers to the ongoing discussion about work culture and conditions at Tesla.
The Gigafactory in Austin, inaugurated in April 2022, stands as a symbol of innovation and progress. Yet, the shadows cast by safety concerns beckon a closer examination of the challenges faced by the workforce driving the future of electric vehicles.