BERLIN — Tesla on Tuesday rejected claims by a German union and recent media reports that health and safety provisions at its gigafactory near Berlin were inadequate, stating that protecting workers’ health was a top priority.
The U.S. electric vehicle maker came under scrutiny in the past fortnight after German media citing local authority documents in Brandenburg reported an unusually high number of work-related accidents requiring workers to take at least three days of sick leave were occurring at the plant, which employs around 11,000 workers.
The report detailed accidents that included serious injuries such as burns from hydrochloric acid and amputated limbs.
On Monday, German union IG Metall said its membership numbers from Tesla workers were rising steeply amid concerns over health and safety as well as overwork. Reuters was not able to independently verify the union’s claims or the media report.
In a written statement, Tesla said workers received training on necessary safety measures, as well as protective clothing. The plant was subject to regular checks by local authorities that safety measures were being respected, it added.
The company did not address the specific claims of the union or media reports regarding the number of accidents or workers off sick at the plant.
Reuters spoke to 12 workers at the factory on Monday.
While four said they were satisfied with working conditions, eight said pressure for speed was too high, with some reporting high incidence of accidents and issues with receiving overtime pay.
Brandenburg’s authority on occupational safety and health said to Reuters it only held records of serious accidents at work resulting in over six weeks of inpatient treatment or permanent physical damage, of which there had been six at the Tesla plant in 2021 and 2022.
The authority’s staff conducted weekly safety checks at the plant during its construction phase and now visited fortnightly, with unannounced checks every 6-8 weeks, it added.