The machine, designed to grab and move freshly cast aluminum car parts, caused injuries to the engineer and forced workers to hit the emergency shutdown button. Two witnesses watched in horror as their fellow employee was attacked.
The man was programming software for two disabled Tesla robots nearby when the robot pinned him and sunk its metal claws into his back and arm, leaving a ‘trail of blood’ along the factory surface.
According to a 2021 injury report filed with Travis County and federal regulators, the victim was left with an ‘open wound’ on his left hand.
Tesla did not report any other robot-related injuries to regulators at the Texas factory in 2021 or 2022. However, this incident occurred during increased concern over the risks of automated robots in the workplace.
Reports of injuries caused by robotic coworkers at Amazon shipment centers, incidents involving killer droid surgeons, self-driving cars, and even violence from mechanical chess instructors have raised questions about the rapid integration of new technology.
By law, Tesla must submit an injury report to maintain its tax breaks in Texas. The report claimed that the engineer did not require time off work.
However, based on her conversations with workers, an attorney representing Tesla’s Giga Texas contract workers believes that the number of injuries at the factory is being underreported.
The attorney stated that there was underreporting, even regarding the death of a construction worker on September 28, 2021. The worker had been contracted to help build the factory.
Anselmo Ramírez, a contractor, died of heat stroke while helping build Tesla’s over 2,000-acre-long Giga Texas factory, according to a report from the Travis County medical examiner.
If Alexander’s allegations of unreported workplace injuries at the Tesla site are accurate, they would follow a trend of similar findings by state regulators and investigative journalism nonprofits over the years.
In 2018, California OSHA investigators discovered that Tesla had omitted 36 injuries from its mandatory government filings. This confirms a previous report by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal team, which found that the company had misclassified several on-the-job accidents and injuries as ‘personal medical’ cases to avoid California regulators.
On November 10, 2021, an engineer suffered a laceration on his left hand caused by a robot at a Tesla factory.
Although Tesla reported that the injury did not require any days off from work for recovery, eyewitnesses told a more harrowing story to reporters from The Information. The incident occurred in the section of the Texas factory floor where vehicle chassis were first assembled.
The bleeding Tesla engineer tried to break free from the assembly robot’s grasp. Another worker stopped the attack by hitting an emergency ‘stop’ button.
After being released, the engineer fell a few feet down a chute designed to collect scrap aluminum, leaving a trail of blood behind.
This incident highlights a more significant trend in Tesla’s self-reported injury data to government authorities.
Tesla’s Giga Texas plant has a higher rate of accidents than the rest of the auto industry, with a ratio of nearly one out of every 21 workers being injured on the job in 2022. According to a review by The Information, this is compared to an industry median rate of one in every 30 workers.