Tesla rolls out new policies to help keep factory workers safe in wake of backlash

TeslaTesla’s factory in Fremont, California.

  • A new post on Tesla’s blog outlines how its infamous Fremont, California, factory has become safer for its workers.
  • Employees had previously described long hours and injuries that came from uncomfortable, repetitive movements.
  • Tesla said it has seen its rate of workplace injuries fall nearly 25% since 2016 after working to make the production process more comfortable for employees.
  • The company also said it has a new policy to better care for workers who are injured on the job.

Tesla has faced criticism from workers at its factory in Fremont, California who have claimed injuries from long hours of uncomfortable, repetitive movements.

Last year, some employees even started an effort to unionize with the United Auto Workers after the factory posted incident rates that were higher than the industry average between 2013 and 2016.

Now, Laurie Shelby – Tesla’s vice president of environmental, health, and safety – has published a post on Tesla’s blog, titled “Becoming the Safest Car Factory in the World,” which outlines the company’s efforts to make the factory safer and more comfortable for employees. In the post, Shelby says that the factory’s total recordable incident rate (TRIR), which measures the rate of workplace injuries, has fallen almost 25% since 2016 and is now at the industry average.

Shelby noted that almost two-thirds of the “recordable incidents” at the Fremont factory were injuries that resulted from uncomfortable, repetitive tasks – rather than isolated accidents – and said Tesla designed the production process for the Model 3 with comfort in mind by analysing the movements that would be required to make the vehicle before production began.

New policies for workers who get injured on the job

The post also outlines a new process Tesla uses to manage workplace injuries. While Tesla used to assign injured workers to less demanding tasks and adjust their pay to reflect the new task, Shelby said that Tesla no longer changes the pay rate for injured workers.

Given that physically demanding jobs in auto factories often pay more than less demanding jobs, this policy could protect employees from financial instability when they’re injured. Shelby also said that Tesla plans to increase training, medical support, and preventive care around workplace injuries in the future.

The announcement comes after Tesla’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, fell under scrutiny after a CNBC report citing Tesla employees claimed that Tesla was using inexperienced workers to make batteries by hand, which reportedly would increase the odds of the batteries becoming defective, as recently as mid-December. A Tesla spokesperson called the report “extremely misinformed and misleading.”

If you’re a current or former Tesla Fremont worker and want to talk about your experience at the company, contact the author securely at [email protected]

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