Tesla contests fines over worker’s serious injury on conveyor belt

Tesla has been cited by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health for four safety violations after an employee was seriously injured when she got stuck in a Model Y at the company’s Fremont factory earlier this year.

The EV maker failed to ensure power was cut to a conveyor belt while workers were performing quality inspections, according to documents

 obtained by Bloomberg through a California Public Records Act request. As a result, in April, the worker became trapped in a car after its open door struck a fixed vertical gate at Tesla
’s Fremont plant, according to the documents.

California OSHA proposed fining Tesla $18,000 for the “serious” violation, which the regulator said the carmaker addressed during an inspection at some point between April and October. The company also received another $18,000 fine for failing to maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program, while it received two other $1,000 fines for “general” violations at the plant.

The report comes as the United Auto Workers, fresh off contract wins with the major Detroit automakers, has Tesla in its crosshairs. It’s trying to gain support among the company’s California workers, and employees at other non-unionized factories. One of the UAW’s key talking points in the past has been the group’s ability to push for safer working conditions.

Tesla is contesting the citations and fines, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board in Sacramento. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In its earlier days, Tesla was dogged by claims it wasn’t as safe as other auto factories. In one high-profile incident in 2013, three Tesla workers were injured and burned when a low-pressure aluminum casting press failed, spilling hot metal on the workers. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk visited the injured employees in the hospital.

Tesla has defended itself by saying its incident rates are below industry average. However, in 2019, officials at the California safety agency said the EV maker omitted hundreds of injuries listed in logs at its factory from annual summary data that the company sends to the government.

The recent documents don’t specify which injury the worker who was trapped in the car faced, only that it was “serious.” The report doesn’t identify the employee or say whether she is still working for Tesla.

Tesla’s two smaller violations that led to OSHA citations had to do with keeping the factory floor free from obstructions, which can cause workers to trip. Inspectors also said the carmaker failed to create written procedures to control “hazardous energy” during the cleaning, repairing

, servicing, setting up or adjusting of certain machinery.