Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 is perhaps the most anticipated car in recent history but some of its workers are getting rides on a different sort of vehicle — an ambulance.
Dozens of employees at Tesla Motors have been complaining about grueling work hours, attributed to CEO Elon Musk’s next-to-impossible production goals, which are resulting in lifelong injuries, according to a report by the Guardian.
Ambulances have been called more than 100 times to Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, since 2014, after workers started complaining of fainting spells, dizziness, chest pains, seizures and other symptoms. Hundreds more were called for injuries and other serious medical issues.
Musk admitted the fact that his workers were “having a hard time, working long hours and on hard jobs,” but that he cared about his employees and that Tesla’s safety record has improved over the last year.
In a phone interview, he said, “We’re a money-losing company. This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It’s just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs?”
However, his statements are at odds with his workers’.
“I’ve seen people pass out, hit the floor like a pancake and smash their face open,” said Jonathan Galescu, a production technician at Tesla. “They just send us to work around him while he’s still lying on the floor.”
Michael Sanchez, who was “ecstatic” to be recruited at Tesla five years ago, now has two herniated disks in his neck, can no longer hold a pencil without pain and is on disability leave.
In February, Tesla worker Jose Moran published a blog post stating “preventable injuries often happen” at the company because workers’ input is not always welcomed and complaints were not taken seriously. He also revealed the low wages at the factory, mandatory overtime and the fact that workers were looking to unionize.
Some Tesla workers complain the company’s treatment of injured or sick workers discourage them from coming forward with their grievances. If workers are assigned “modified work” or lighter duties because of injury, they are given a lower wage as well as supplemental benefits from workers’ compensation insurance. The lighter paycheck forces them to come back quickly to their regular work or not complain at all.
Tesla’s operations were most dangerous during its earlier years, however it reported its safety regulations between 2013 and 2016 were above the industry standards.
“Tesla's safety record is much better than industry average, but it is not enough,” it said in a post. “Our goal is to have as close to zero injuries as humanly possible and to become the safest factory in the auto industry. We will get there by continuing to ask our employees to raise safety concerns and to keep proposing ideas that make things even better.”