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Engineer attacked by Tesla robot; emergency shutdown

  • Injuries underreported at Tesla
  • Robot assaults engineer
  • Safety concerns at Giga Texas

A Tesla Giga Texas factory near Austin witnessed a violent and gory malfunction in which an engineer was assaulted by a robot.

Two witnesses observed in hysteria as the machine designed to grasp and relocate newly cast aluminium auto parts attacked their colleague.

The robot pinned the man, who was programming software for two disabled Tesla robots nearby, before leaving a “blood trail” across the factory floor with its metal talons embedded in the employee’s back and arm.

The incident, which resulted in an “open wound” on the victim’s left hand, was detailed in an injury report submitted to Travis County and federal regulators in 2021.

Although Tesla did not disclose any additional robot-related injuries to regulators at its Texas factory in 2021 or 2022, this incident occurs amid years of increased concern regarding the dangers posed by automated robots in the workplace.

Increased injuries allegedly caused by killer droid-surgeons, self-driving cars, robotic colleagues at Amazon fulfilment centres, and even aggression from robotic chess instructors have prompted some to question the rapid integration of the new technology.

The injury report, which Tesla is obligated to provide to Texas authorities to preserve its advantageous tax benefits, stated that the engineer did not necessitate any leave of absence.

However, an attorney who represents Tesla Giga Texas contract workers told that she believes the number of injuries suffered at the factory is underreported, based on her conversations with workers there.

Unreported Injuries and Fatalities

The attorney stated that this underreporting extended to the September 28, 2021 death of a construction worker who had been hired to assist in the construction of the factory.

Alexander stated, “We’ve had multiple injured workers and one fatal worker, neither of whose injuries or demise are reflected in these reports that Tesla is obligated to submit accurately to the county for tax incentive purposes.”

Antelmo Ramrez, a contractor, passed away from heat exhaustion while assisting in the construction of Tesla’s Giga Texas facility, which spans more than 2,000 acres, according to a Travis County medical examiner’s report.

Workers Defence Project lodged a complaint with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last year on behalf of Giga Texas employees, alleging that Tesla’s contractors and subcontractors issued false safety certificates to some hires.

Alexander told local NBC affiliate KXAN, “According to employees, they were promptly sent PDF files or images of certificates via text message or WhatsApp when they required training within days.” “It is inconceivable that employees could have even completed the necessary training.”

If true, Alexander’s claims regarding unreported workplace injuries at the Tesla facility would be consistent with findings made by state regulators and nonprofit investigative journalism organisations over the years.

In 2018, California OSHA investigators discovered that Tesla omitted 36 injuries from its required government filings. This confirms a previous report by the Reveal team of the Centre for Investigative Reporting, which discovered that the company had fabricated a number of workplace accidents and injuries into ‘personal medical’ cases to evade California regulators.

Controversial Incidents and Safety Concerns

Tesla had previously declared Reveal’s allegations to be “completely false” and accused the organisation of clandestinely conspiring with employees who were attempting to form a labour union at the automaker’s California facility, prior to the discoveries made by California OSHA.

Nonetheless, a scant copy of Tesla’s 2021 Annual Compliance Report for Giga Texas documents, albeit insufficiently, the software engineer’s heinous robot assault.

The brief entry dated November 10, 2021, details the infliction of a laceration, cut, exposed wound on an “engineer” using a “robot” as the “cause object.”

Tesla asserts that the engineer’s recuperation from the injuries sustained on his left hand necessitated an absolute minimum of ‘zero’ days off from work.

Two eyewitnesses to the incident, which transpired in the area of the Texas factory floor where automobile chassis are initially assembled, provided The Information with an even more distressing account.

Another worker pressed an emergency ‘stop’ button to halt the assault as the wounded Tesla engineer struggled to escape the grasp of the assembly robot.

According to The Information, a subscription-based technology news website, the engineer fell “a few feet down a chute designed to collect scrap aluminium, leaving a trail of blood behind him” after escaping.

The occurrence underscores a more extensive pattern evident in Tesla’s self-disclosed data regarding injuries to governmental authorities: The Tesla Giga Texas facility has a higher rate of total accidents and accidents that necessitate time off compared to the rest of the automotive industry.

High Injury Rates and Construction Challenges

An analysis by The Information revealed that in 2022, injuries occurred at Tesla’s Giga Texas factory at a rate of nearly one in every twenty-one employees, compared to the industry median of one in every thirty employees.

The ratio for more catastrophic on-the-job injuries at Tesla’s Texas factory was approximately one in every twenty-six employees, according to data from 2022 filings regarding injuries that resulted in missed work days or job duties being transferred.

In contrast, the median incidence of these injuries among employees at other major automobile manufacturers in the United States was one in every 38 individuals.

In order to account for and rectify for the effect of scale, the news site’s analysis of the data compared Tesla’s Giga Texas plant to only US auto plants employing 250 workers or more. Tesla had provided OSHA with these mandatory Form 300 reports.

The Information has been informed by sources that the expeditious two-year construction of the Giga Texas facility contributed to the inadequate safety protocols and a rise in injuries.

At the time, Tesmanian and other “insight” or Tesla fan blogs referred to it as “Elon Speed” and boasted, “Tesla has authorised three crew shifts to operate round the clock, every day of the week.”

“The construction is currently proceeding uninterrupted and is anticipated to be completed significantly ahead of schedule,” the website stated.

The range of self-reported worker injuries at Tesla includes chemical exposures, blunt force trauma, and machine incidents that required months of recovery for some labourers.

Workplace Hazards and Tax Rebate Controversy

OSHA reports for Tesla detail sprains, cuts, and fractures sustained by employees after becoming entangled in machinery, in addition to illnesses caused by exposure to toxins such as ammonia.

A moving cart in August 2022 fractured the tibia of a production associate, rendering them immobile for 127 days (equivalent to more than four months).

Subsequently, a material handler sustained a head injury from a metal object impact; OSHA records indicate that the worker required 85 days to fully recover from the wound.

Although news coverage and official Tesla press materials often refer to the Giga factory as being situated in Austin, its precise location is in Del Valle, an unincorporated area in the same county.

Bloomberg reports that by selecting the location, Travis County and the Del Valle Independent School District granted Tesla tax rebates totaling more than $60 million.

Conversely, according to Alexander, an attorney with the Workers Defence Project, Musk’s company may not be adhering to the stringent requirements that accompanied those tax incentives.

Alexander, speaking on the phone with DailyMail.com, stated, “For the purposes of this ‘economic development’ incentive agreement, Tesla is obligated to annually compile a compliance report.”

Unreported Injuries and Legal Obligations

Alexander stated, “What I’ve discovered—speaking with a number of construction workers who have sustained injuries—is that their injuries have not been included in the report.”

“His demise, similar to that of the deceased employee Antelmo Ramírez, was not officially documented,” the counsel based in Austin further stated. “The agreement between Travis County and Tesla, or rather with the Colorado River Project, LLC, which Tesla was conducting business under in this instance, was unambiguous.”

It is their responsibility to disclose all construction worker injuries and fatalities, encompassing not only those of individuals directly employed by Tesla but also any construction worker present on the site.

This issue’s precise language can be found on page 12 of the agreement dated July 14, 2020, which is currently accessible to the public via the Travis County website.

The agreement states, “Company [Tesla] shall provide the County with an annual report by March 31, 2021, detailing the number of injuries and fatalities, if any, that may have occurred during the construction of the Colorado River Project [Tesla’s Giga factory].”

However, although Tesla may deviate from the norm in terms of workplace injuries within the automotive sector, the organisation thrives in the most hazardous state for construction workers in the United States—Texas.

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Tesla’s Relocation to Texas

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics found that the risk of workplace fatalities among construction workers in Texas was 22% higher than that of workers in any other state within the United States.

“According to other reports, Tesla’s decision to establish operations in Texas was motivated by the state’s inadequate health and safety regulations compared to those in California at the time,” she explained.

According to those allegations, which were also published in the Dallas Morning News, Musk reportedly relocated Tesla’s manufacturing and headquarters “after becoming frustrated with restrictions in California during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In part because of the Giga Texas’s enormous footprint (nearly 100 football fields in total area and over 10 million square feet of floor space), the company decided to begin operations on portions of the factory while the remainder was still being constructed.

Alexander states, “They continued to construct other components as it began to operate as early as April 2022, when Mr. Musk donned a cowboy hat and held the Cyber Rodeo there.”

The attorney argues that this may have contributed to the above-average injury rates among factory workers.

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