Tesla Motors is facing $89,000 in fines for seven safety violations, six considered serious, related to a workplace incident that injured and burned three workers in November, said officials at the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA).
The employees at Tesla’s Fremont factory suffered injuries Nov. 13 when a low-pressure aluminum casting press failed, spilling hot metal on the workers and causing their clothing to catch fire.
“Molten metal was released splattering the three victims, the victims’ clothing caught fire, they stopped and rolled on the floor,” according to a Cal-OSHA report released Thursday. “The safety department called 911. The Fremont Fire Department arrived within 10 minutes, approximately.”
Tesla employees Jesus Navarro, Kevin Carter and Jorge Terrazas went to Valley Medical Center in San Jose with second- and third-degree burns. Carter and Terrazas have returned to work. Navarro, who had burns on his hands, stomach, hip, lower back and ankles, ended up hospitalized for 20 days and continues to recuperate at home.
Cal-OSHA’s investigation found Tesla failed to ensure the low-pressure die casting machine stayed maintained in a safe operating condition and allowed its employees to operate the machine while the safety interlock was broken. It also found the employees did not have proper training regarding the hazards of the machine, and were not wearing the required eye and face protection.
“The citations speak for themselves,” Peter Melton, a spokesman for Cal-OSHA, said in an interview. “It was a hazardous situation for three employees.”
Tesla, headquartered in Palo Alto, makes its all-electric Model S sedan at the Fremont factory. Tesla took ownership of the former NUMMI plant in October 2010 and transformed a portion of the cavernous auto plant into a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
Tesla said it plans to appeal the fine because “we believe there are aspects of the citations that merit further discussion.”
“We take safety extremely seriously and have taken numerous steps to ensure nothing like it happens again,” the company said in a statement. “We fully shut down the low-pressure die casting operation and decommissioned the equipment. We provided the injured employees with dedicated HR support and maintained full pay beyond that provided by workers’ compensation.” “It’s worth noting that the accident rate at our Fremont factory is nearly twice as good as the automotive industry average, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor data.”