Tesla has expanded its list of worker injuries following a report published in Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, which flagged under-counting and safety problems at the company’s Fremont, California facility last month.
The move also comes one week after CEO and founder Elon Musk blasted the media for reporting on the discrepancies and threatened to start a Yelp-like site to rate journalists.
“Tesla disputed our reporting showing that it left worker injuries off the books,” Reveal tweeted Tuesday. “Now, it’s begun adding some of the injuries that had been missing.
Tesla disputed our reporting showing that it left worker injuries off the books.
Now, it's begun adding some of the injuries that had been missing.https://t.co/KStm4oq0aC
— Reveal (@reveal) May 29, 2018
The original Reveal report, published on April 16, claimed that Tesla officials were under-reporting work-related injuries sustained by employees in order to make the company’s safety numbers appear more favorable to industry critics. The company instead wrote many complaints off as “personal medical issues or minor incidents requiring only first aid,” according to internal company records. In May, pressure on the company doubled after an unfavorable review by Consumer Reports found troubling flaws in the Tesla Model 3’s braking system, the second critical report from the austere publication.
Responding to the criticism last week, Musk went on a Twitter rant, claiming that the negative press was part of “a calculated disinformation campaign.”
“The holier-than-thou hypocrisy of big media companies who lay claim to the truth, but publish only enough to sugarcoat the lie, is why the public no longer respects them,” he tweeted.
A short while later, after several followers accused him of emulating President Trump’s media bullying tactics, he added, “Thought you’d say that. Anytime anyone criticizes the media, the media shrieks ‘You’re just like Trump!’ Why do you think he got elected in the first place? Because no ones believes you any more. You lost your credibility a long time ago.”
Musk then claimed he would “create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication.”
“Thinking of calling it Pravda,” he tweeted, the name borrowed from the state-run newspaper of Soviet Russia. When asked if the site would work like Yelp, where users can rate local businesses and leave reviews, Musk added, “Exactly.”
(As science and tech reporter Mark Harris noted, Musk may be planning to follow through on his tweets: in October 2017, one of Musk’s associates, Jared Birchall, incorporated a “Pravda Corp” in the state of California. After Harris tweeted the incorporation documents, Musk simply replied with a smiling emoji.)
Reveal’s criticisms appear to have some merit, however. As the outlet noted on Tuesday, following Musk’s Twitter rant and the earlier media reports, Tesla officials allegedly quietly revised the company’s books to add more names to the company’s list of worker injuries, including at least “13 injuries from 2017 that had been missing when Tesla certified its legally mandated injury report earlier this year.”
“Alaa Alkhafagi, for example, smashed his face and arm in the paint department last fall. He said he had been asked to perform a task for which he had no training,” reporter Will Evans wrote. “At the time of the injury, Tesla didn’t put Alkhafagi on official injury logs, even though the accident caused him to miss work. …By late April, Tesla had added him to the 2017 logs, dating his injury Oct. 1 and noting that he missed three days of work because of it.”
Evans flagged that the company “has yet to record all of the 2017 injuries it should have by law…[and] might not face a penalty for it.”
Tesla has claimed it was simply complying with state laws in adding the new cases to its list. “[W]e’ve added only a small fraction…to our 2017 logs, amounting to less than 2 percent of our 2017 injuries,” the company said in a statement to Reveal. “This is a normal part of ensuring our records are accurate. In fact, this is precisely what OSHA regulations require that companies do.”
Musk has not yet personally responded to the latest Reveal report on Twitter.