California investigating Tesla workplace

Dana Hull and Josh Eidelson
Bloomberg L.P.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health said it has opened a new investigation into Tesla Inc. following a report about worker protections at the company’s auto plant in Fremont, California.

The state agency “takes seriously reports of workplace hazards and allegations of employers’ underreporting recordable work-related injuries and illnesses” and “currently has an open inspection at Tesla,” said Erika Monterroza, a state spokeswoman.

California requires employers to electronically submit what it calls Log 300 records of injuries and illnesses. Monterroza said that while the state doesn’t disclose details of open inspections, they typically include a review of employers’ Log 300 records and checks to ensure that serious injuries are reported within eight hours as required by law.

A story this week by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal alleged that Tesla failed to report serious injuries on legally mandated reports to make its numbers appear better than they actually were. The website cited former members of Tesla’s environment, health and safety team saying Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s personal preferences were often invoked as reason not to address potential hazards.

Tesla pushed back against the story in a lengthy blog post on Monday, calling it “an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla.” The United Auto Workers union has been trying to organize Fremont workers for more than a year.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as CAL/OSHA, opened its inspection late Tuesday. Investigations can be triggered by a number of reasons, including internal complaints from employees. The agency declined to say what triggered its latest probe, which could take as long as six months to complete.

A Tesla spokesman didn’t immediately comment.

Cal/OSHA’s regulations define a serious injury or illness as one that requires employee hospitalization for more than 24 hours for a matter other than medical observation, or one in which part of the body is lost or permanent disfigurement occurs.