Tesla managed to overcome the production bottlenecks that caused massive delays to its Model 3, but not everything on the production floor has been what it seems, according to Bloomberg. The outlet reported today on a memorandum regulators in California recently sent to Tesla that determined the carmaker has omitted "hundreds" of injuries from the annual reports it provides to Cal/OSHA, the state's workplace-safety agency.
Such reports are important because they alert Cal/OSHA to employers that aren't doing enough to protect their employees from injury. Accurate data on workplace incidents tell the agency where to direct its resources. Tesla has in the past been the subject of harsh investigations into the safety of its factories where employees have said that speed and style often take priority over safety. In one incredible anecdote, a factory line worker said that Musk didn't want yellow safety markers on the factory floor because they would ruin the overall aesthetic.
“If companies don’t report accurately, it has really an impact on where the agency ends up using its scarce resources,” said Debra Berkowitz of National Employment Law Project, a pro-labor non-profit. “It’s very important to the agency that the summary data be accurate so that it doesn’t portray a workplace that’s safer than it really is.”
Tesla's numbers are getting better — December's memorandum from Cal/OSHA stated that a 2018 injury summary from Tesla was missing three dozen incidents that were listed in the car maker's own internal logs. In Tesla's defense, that represents only 4 percent of overall incidents. In 2016, Tesla omitted a massive 44 percent of incidents.
But its safety record still trails other automakers — Tesla has been known to blatantly lie to the public about the safety of its factories. Musk said last month that his company's reports are 99 percent accurate, which clearly doesn't square with what we're hearing today. The injury rate at Tesla is 6.5 per year per hundred full-time employees, compared to the industry average of 6.1. The company is not undeserving of some scrutiny here.
What's most depressing about Bloomberg's report is that it found for these new violations, Cal/OSHA slapped Tesla with a citation of a whopping $400. To add insult to unreported injuries, Tesla is appealing the citation.