We're reporters from KQED and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. We worked on this investigation about Tesla, which just came out: https://www.revealnews.org/article/tesla-says-its-factory-is-safer-but-it-left-injuries-off-the-books/. We found that the company's own former safety experts say it's prioritizing production over worker safety and that it's leaving worker injuries off the books. Ask us anything.

Proof: https://twitter.com/reveal/status/986315303037685760

Comments: 258 • Responses: 13  • Date: 

SuperKing000163 karma

What's Tesla's worker safety record?

willReveal54 karma

Hi there, you should read the story to find out! The company's rate of serious injuries -- those requiring days away from work or job restrictions -- was 83% higher than the industry average in 2016, but came down to 30% higher than average in 2017. The company says its overall injury rate is right at industry average - but we found that the company is not counting all its injuries as required by law, so that would make its record look better than it actually is. Also, state regulators have cited Tesla more than 40 times for health and safety violations since 2013. I hope that helps - but much more detail in the story!

whdc42521 karma

Hey! In the audio piece Reveal read the statement from Tesla accusing you guys of working with a pro union group and essentially that this was a partisan hit job. In the podcast I don’t remember a response, How would you respond to this?

willReveal28 karma

Hi there, we did this reporting completely independently of the union. We interviewed more than 3 dozen current and former employees, and some of them have supported the union but many were not involved at all - including the former Tesla safety professionals we talked to. So that accusation is just wrong.

purestevil19 karma

How does your journalistic process weed out people with a possible axe to grind like a former safety expert?

willReveal18 karma

This is an important issue for reporters. It's important to figure out everything you can about your sources, including whether they have an axe to grind, whether they are considered trustworthy by others, and whether there are documents that back up their story. We definitely weed out people who don't check out. In this story, it was important to us to find multiple sources who independently brought up the same concerns (in this story, 5 former members of the environmental, health and safety team), and to find documents to back up what they were saying (which we did).

Duke_Paul6 karma

Hi Will and Alyssa,

Thanks for doing the groundwork and then doing an AMA with us! I have a few questions about your research. First, I'm assuming the current Tesla safety team "couldn't be reached for comment," or gave a canned statement about how committed they are to workplace safety, right? If that's the case, do you think safety measures and incident reporting have improved since these numbers came out? Secondly, are there any legal repercussions to hiding this kind of data, like OSHA or some other federal agency taking action against them? Third, if the tradeoff of production over safety is already being made, why is production of the model 3 still so low? (That last one is less related, obviously.)


willReveal16 karma

Hey thanks for the questions. We did talk to the current VP of safety, Laurie Shelby. She said the company cares deeply about the safety of its workers, counts injuries accurately, etc. She came in last October. If they're improving that would be great. But we found injuries they didn't count throughout 2017 and we talked to current employees who said problems still exist. So I guess we'll see...

willReveal10 karma

And you're right - recording injuries accurately is required by law, and Cal OSHA would be responsible for enforcing it.

willReveal14 karma

As for your last question, that's an interesting one. One of the things people kept telling us was that things were disorganized and chaotic there, as they rushed to get cars out the door. (I'm talking about other Tesla models.) Instead of a smooth operation with established procedures, they were dealing with constant changes and work-arounds on the fly. That meant that safety took a hit, but that's also not a great way to produce a lot of cars -- even if production is the number one concern.

ItIsMeSenor6 karma

As a journalist, what additional education and/or experience do you have to qualify you to report on factory safety?

ajpreports13 karma

Hey! Will has been reporting at Reveal, on and off for the past 13 years. He's been covering labor and workplace issues. Uber and Tesla are just one of the many companies he's covered. And I've been reporting on Tesla's workplace issues since last year at KQED. I also was on the Silicon Valley desk for a bit at KQED.

willReveal16 karma

As a journalist, you often don't start as an expert in the subject you are covering. You immerse yourself in the story, do a lot of reading and reporting, talk to as many people as you can, and rely on experts to help you understand what is important and what to look for. Then you go back to those experts to make sure what you're publishing is accurate and solid.

racing264 karma

Who paid for the investigations that lead to your reports? Non-profit does not mean non-funded.

Also, Tesla's reply says that you refused to accept their more-current information and instead haranged their employees at home and online for months on end. Is this true?

willReveal16 karma

I responded the money question below. I'm not sure what you mean by their more-current information. They said we used old information but the injuries and conditions were were talking about were from 2017 -- and the former health safety professionals who talked to us were from 2017 as well.

willReveal15 karma

As for harassing employees, we don't do that. As all good journalists do, we reached out to as many people as we could - via social media or by phone. Sometimes we would follow up if we didn't hear back. Whenever someone told us they didn't want to talk, we accepted that. Standard reporting practices. I don't know anything about showing up at people's homes unannounced - while that's also a legitimate reporting technique under certain circumstances, I didn't do that on this story. Some workers did invite us to their homes, however. In the end more than 3 dozen current and former workers talked to us of their own volition.

snapunhappy8 karma

Oh and a quick google search links to thier biggest donors:


racing265 karma

That doesn't tell me who paid for this investigation.

Will Reveal confirm that they did NOT accept donations from the United Auto Workers or any other body with a known axe to grind with respect to Tesla?

willReveal16 karma

Hi there - fair question. We don't accept any money from the UAW or any unions, or any partisan or advocacy groups. No one with an axe to grind with respect to Tesla.

someone_you_may_know0 karma

My brother works at Tesla and told a story that Elon wanted to make barriers out of trees to hide projects. How would that play out in terms of safety and did you find the idea to be funny?

willReveal1 karma

Hi everyone, as you can see we haven't been able keep replying to questions...we did our best for about an hour and had to go back to reporting (just posted this follow-up on Tesla: https://www.revealnews.org/blog/tesla-hit-by-government-investigation-after-reveal-story/). Stay tuned for more stories at revealnews.org Thanks for all your questions!

flotador7-3 karma

Did you try to contact someone at Tesla and tell them that their practices were not up to the safety standards expected from the company?

If you did, what was their response?

If you didn't, was the purpose of your investigation write an expose all along?

Would you have written it if the factory would have presented no issues?

willReveal14 karma

Hi there, thanks for the questions. Yes we did talk to multiple Tesla officials, including the company spokesman, the VP of environment, health and safety and the Chief People Officer (who is head of HR). Check out our print and radio pieces to hear their responses. Basically they said we are wrong, Tesla is safe, and 82% of employees said in a recent survey that they believe Tesla is committed to their health and safety.

willReveal7 karma

As an investigative reporter, I have to first find out if there's a problem. We went through a lot of records (including safety citations by the state workplace safety agency, 911 logs, workers' comp records, etc) and interviewed a lot of people (including former members of the Tesla health and safety team) before determining what the problem was. If we had looked into this and found there wasn't a problem there, or that it was minor, we would have moved on to a different story about something else. Our mission here is to expose wrongdoing and hold the powerful accountable - whether it's Tesla or any other company or government agency.