Tesla CEO Elon Musk has received a lot of praise lately with advancements of his SpaceX projects along with his Boring Co. tunnel machine, but a new report could cloud his reputation. The Guardian reported worker conditions at Tesla factories are so bad people have reportedly passed out to meet production demands while others received life-changing injuries.
Workers experiencing fainting spells, dizziness, seizures, abnormal breathing and chest pains led to more than 100 calls to ambulances since 2014 while hundreds more were called for injuries and other cases, incident records obtained by the news outlet show.
Fifteen current and former Tesla factory workers detailed long hours under pressure while working at the facility, as well as pain and injury.
Pressure on employees, who work alongside giant red robots, shows the lengths Tesla is going to in order to meet CEO Elon Musk’s aggressive production goals.
“I’ve seen people pass out, hit the floor like a pancake and smash their face open,” Jonathan Galescu, a production technician at Tesla, told the Guardian. “They just send us to work around him while he’s still lying on the floor.”
Another worker, Michael Sanchez, said he was excited when he was recruited but ended up with two herniated discs in his neck. The company said he got the injury while installing a wheel, but he says the injury is the product of years he spent working on Tesla’s assembly line. Sanchez, who is on disability leave from work, worked on cars suspended above the line looking up and working with his head up all day.
“You can make it through Monday,” Sanchez said. “You can make it through Tuesday. Come Wednesday, you start to feel something. Thursday is pain. Friday is agonizing. Saturday you’re just making it through the day.”
Richard Ortiz, a production worker, recently lost strength in his arm. Ortiz, like Sanchez, was at first happy about joining Tesla, but then joined other workers in “mass disappointment” over the company.
Other employees described stress injuries associated with long work shifts. Tesla employees were working 12-hour shifts six days a week before hours were reduced last fall.
Meanwhile, a Tesla worker on medical leave with an injury said that superiors “put the production numbers ahead of the safety and wellbeing of the employees.”
Tesla said Sanchez and another worker’s views did not represent the entire workforce.
“In a factory of more than 10,000 employees, there will always be isolated incidents that we would like to avoid,” the company told the Guardian. Tesla said its factory safety record has improved significantly over the last year.
Musk admitted his workers were “having a hard time, working long hours, and on hard jobs.” He added he cared deeply about workers’ health and wellbeing.
Musk also said Tesla shouldn’t be compared with other major U.S. automakers, pointing out that it makes just 1 percent of GM’s total output.
“We’re a money-losing company,” Musk told the Guardian. “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?”
Some workers at the factory have previously attempted to unionize, Tesla employee Jose Moran said in a blog post in February. In his post he also spoke of harsh work conditions at Tesla.
“Most of my 5,000-plus co-workers work well over 40 hours a week, including excessive mandatory overtime,” Moran said. “The hard, manual labor we put in to make Tesla successful is done at great risk to our bodies.”
International Business Times has reached out to Tesla for comment.