Yesterday, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting published an exposé about work conditions at the Tesla auto factory. In the piece, “Inside Tesla’s factory, a medical clinic designed to ignore injured workers,” many accounts of fraudulent reporting and blatant mishandling of medical injuries are detailed.
“The on-site medical clinic serving some 10,000 employees at Tesla Inc.’s California assembly plant has failed to properly care for seriously hurt workers, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.
“The clinic’s practices are unsafe and unethical, five former clinic employees said.
“But denying medical care and work restrictions to injured workers is good for one thing: making real injuries disappear.”
“‘The goal of the clinic was to keep as many patients off of the books as possible,’ said Anna Watson, a physician assistant who worked at Tesla’s medical clinic for three weeks in August.”
Watson recounts incidents of workers being sent to the hospital for emergencies in a Lyft rather than an ambulance because ambulance calls would have to be reported. Once such occasion was when a worker severed the tip of his finger.
On a separate occasion, Stephon Nelson was putting caulk inside the trunk of a Model X when the unthinkable happened. Something was dislodged and the hatchback came crashing down on Nelson’s back. Besides the extreme pain, Nelson was unable to walk or even sit. Deep bruises were an immediate and visible testament to his underlying injury. The Tesla doctor denied an ambulance request and sent him to the hospital in a Lyft.
Typically, 911 logs are public records. And first responders are required to report to California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Lyft drivers have no such requirement. This is just one of the ways Tesla is accused of intentionally hiding injuries.
Even getting the Lyft is not a straightforward process. The piece says that an injured person lying on the assembly line would have to wait 10 to 15 minutes for medical personnel to get there. Once arrived, they would have to contact the doctor. Finally, it could take hours just to get the code for the Tesla Lyft account.
Watson speaks of a policy to send injured workers back to work without any type of work modification regardless of the complaint. Those complaints could include burns, lacerations, sprains, and the like. She even had to send a person back to work who appeared to have a broken ankle.
These are not isolated incidents. The report is quite long and detailed. It paints a picture of systematic abuse in the service of hiding facts about injuries. Tesla denies all claims.