Today, the US National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) released a report singling out 12 companies that most put their workers at risk, and Amazon and Tesla both made the list.
Photo: Peter Macdiarmid (Getty)
“Every day there are workers who don’t come home to their families because of tragedies we know could have been prevented,” Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of National COSH, said in a statement. “This year, we’ll identify several companies who received specific warnings about safety hazards and failed to correct them. Workers paid the ultimate price for these failures.”
To compile the report, entitled “The Dirty Dozen 2018”, National COSH pulled its information from health and safety activists and looked at “severity of injuries to workers; exposure to unnecessary and preventable risk; repeat citations by relevant state and federal authorities; and activity by workers to improve their health and safety conditions” to decide which companies to include. The report notes that oftentimes these injuries and deaths are preventable given effective health and safety measures.
National COSH found that seven workers have been killed in Amazon warehouses since 2013, with three of those deaths occurring within a five-week span last year. The report points out the hypocrisy of these preventable deaths given CEO Jeff Bezos is presently the richest person in the world and his company is currently shopping around for the location for its second headquarters.
Amazon recently opened its first Australian warehouse late last year.
“His vast wealth depends, in large part, on a business model that features a relentless work pace and constant monitoring of employees,” the report states. It also indicates that Amazon contracts some of its workforce using temp agencies, which creates a nebulous path of accountability when injuries occur.
As for Tesla, the company recently made headlines after a Reveal report indicated that the company was downplaying the amount and severity of its workplace injuries. This week’s report from the National COSH noted that recordable worker injuries at Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory were 31 per cent higher than the industry average in 2015 and 2016, and the rate of serious injuries was 83 per cent higher than the industry average in 2016.
National COSH highlighted the unionisation efforts of Tesla workers – who have to date not received support from company management – which it says resulted in raised hourly wages, responses to some workplace safety concerns, and improvements to the company’s confidentiality policy.
“Union supporters at Tesla say these gains – and other workplace issues – should be addressed in a negotiated union contract, so Tesla cannot make unilateral policy changes,” the report states.
In an email to Gizmodo, a Tesla spokesperson referred back to a company blog post it published in response to the Reveal story. The blog details several efforts to improve safety at its factory, including improved training and additional oversight, and says Tesla aims to “be the safest factory on Earth”.
Jonathan Galescu is a technician at Tesla’s Fremont factory who does bodywork on the company’s electric cars. He said during a call with reporters that he has been employed at the company for almost four years and has been seriously injured “several times”, adding that he has been struck in the chest with a massive machine part as well as developed a “bulging disk” in his back based on the way they do bodywork, which he characterised as “kind of unconventional”.
Galescu also claimed that Tesla workers are still experiencing serious injuries. “They are saying that the number has dropped,” he said, “but I don’t believe that it has.”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment about National COSH’s report, which you can view in full here.