By Kyle Field and Zach Shahan
Tesla has been expanding at an insane pace in a push to create new vehicle delivery routes to new countries at the same time as it continues adding production capacity for the upcoming Tesla Model Y. Construction at Gigafactory 3 in China is wrapping up on phase 1 and Tesla is getting close to making a decision on the location of Gigafactory 4 in Europe. It’s safe to say that it has been a busy
year, couple of years, decade, 15 years for Tesla.
Foundational to operating a manufacturing facility, especially in California, are the health, safety, and environmental (HS&E) systems that ensure the base systems are in place to protect the environment, to protect employees, especially when working on or around manufacturing equipment.
Tesla puts safety at the forefront of just about everything it does. It builds the safest vehicles on the planet in each category, and they have the most advanced active safety systems on the planet. Tesla strives to build those vehicles in factories that don’t injure its people, as well. A Tesla spokesperson told CleanTechnica that, “Our Global Environmental, Health and Safety team continues to prioritize the health and well-being of our employees with the goal of running the safest factories in the world.”
To that end, Tesla is standardizing its in-facility occupational care provider at Fremont and at Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. In the past, Tesla had different care providers at each location, but is standardizing with a single provider at both locations. “With the contract of our current medical provider at Fremont expiring, we are combining Tesla’s occupational care programs under a single health provider with a presence in both California and Nevada,” a Tesla spokesperson told CleanTechnica. Standardizing the provider should allow Tesla to deliver a more consistent experience at both locations, which should improve the overall quality of service provided.
“This change will extend the operations of Care OnSite, our medical provider at Gigafactory Reno, to the Fremont Factory, allowing us to offer an expanded 24/7 clinic that provides our employees with physician-directed coverage for occupational injuries, personal medical emergencies and medical monitoring.”
Tesla has also ramped up its internal safety programs in a concerted effort at its automotive manufacturing facilities in Fremont, California and at Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. “Over the past year, we’ve made tremendous progress with programs such as Early Symptom Intervention, ergonomics, Find-it Fix-It and active safety committees,” a Tesla spokesperson said. “These efforts have resulted in a 28 percent decrease in lost work day injuries at Fremont, which continues to trend down, and a 20 percent improvement in days away and restricted time.”
Kicking off large safety programs at a 10,000 strong manufacturing facility is no small feat and not only requires a small army to implement, it requires touching each and every employee with the new programs at various levels of engagement. It entails hours of training for leadership to understand why the new systems will help and who needs to lead various aspects of the program. That’s not even touching on the work to determine what will need to change to improve the safety in existing systems.
Overall, if it wasn’t clear enough before, while Tesla was very rapidly scaling up at a safety level similar to conventional automakers, it seems evident now that the company keeps humans at the center of its corporate focus. That makes sense, after all, given that the company’s core mission is to help humanity.
The company continues to use the latest tech to optimize for that target. A couple of examples of that are “sensor suits” that help guide worker movements for better ergonomics and safety and automatic tracking of employee rotations in order to minimize repetitive stress injuries. As another example, the Model 3 production lines that we examined in detail were designed in part with virtual reality (VR) tools to optimize ergonomics. This is innovation in production that is happening behind the scenes. While the products speak for themselves, despite all of the negative propaganda out there about them and about Tesla as a while, it is harder for consumers and investors to get a genuine understanding of the employee side of that corporate obsession with innovation. Needless to say, though, if Tesla is as determined and creative here as it is on the product side, there’s another good reason why so many people of all ages and professions try to get a job at Tesla.
In our tour of the main Fremont factory and the seat factory, we saw many smiling and laughing employees. As Zach wrote in his first article about the tour, one of the most striking observations was how different the atmosphere inside of Tesla was compared to the media noise about Tesla. It appears that Tesla is attempting to now share and explain that a bit more in its own way. Perhaps it will never be able to “correct the record,” but there is no alternative better than trying.
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