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Workers: Tesla Paint Shop Plagued with Fires

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

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Five Tesla employees recently reported that the company has had at least four fires at its Fremont, California, painting facility since 2014, including one in April that was enough to stop Model 3 production for multiple shifts.

These employees laid the blame for these fires on improper cleaning, maintenance and insufficient training for new employees. Two of the five noted that they feared for their health due to poor air quality and fire hazards.

Previous Fires

In October 2016, Tesla denied reports that its Fremont paint shop could be the source of a bottleneck that could slow production capacity.

At the time, Edward Niedermayer of the website Daily Kanban levied the allegations that the paint shop at Tesla’s Fremont manufacturing facility can only finish up to 219,000 units per year in order to remain in compliance with California emissions regulations.

Tesla plant
Maurizio Pesce, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Five Tesla employees recently reported that the company has had at least four fires at its Fremont, California, plant since 2014. One fire that occurred in April was enough to stop Model 3 production for multiple shifts.

In January of that same year, a fire caused a cessation of vehicle production. Both the April and the January 2016 incidents caused damage to expensive equipment.

April Incident

The April 3 fire was significant enough to stop work for a full shift that day, according to employees, with the shop shutting down for an additional shift on Thursday. Tesla also had to decommission two burnt sprayer robots valued at $1 million. On top of this, the incident occurred just after an email was sent out by the company's head of vehicle engineering, Doug Field, who is now on leave. In the email, Field said to “prove the haters wrong." That same week, CEO Elon Musk came to the plant to inspect the damage, encouraging teams to fix what they could and push through.

Tesla has since denied that the April fire was significant, or that the incident had any impact on the production of the Model 3, however.

"In recent months, we have further enhanced the safety and efficiency of our paint shop, including significant upgrades to equipment, as well as an extensive maintenance effort involving cleaning and calibration. In order to protect the health of our employees, we also conduct regular air monitoring and have proper ventilation and personal protective equipment for everyone who works in the paint shop,” a Tesla spokesperson said.

While it has been alleged that some Model 3 parts, including B-pillars and chassis components, that had been in the paint shop at the time of the fire were put back into production, Tesla has said that no damaged parts were used in new vehicle production.

Tesla handled the fire with an internal brigade, but did not report the incident to the Fremont Fire Department. A citizen did make a report after seeing reports about the fire on social media, which prompted the fire chief to visit the plant.

The Model 3, Tesla’s lowest-priced vehicle, is a significant component in securing the company’s future as a mass-market car manufacturer. Tesla aimed to produce 2,500 Model 3s per week by March 31 of this year, but has so far missed that goal.


Tagged categories: Automotive coatings; Fire; Health and safety

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (6/5/2018, 8:48 AM)

A thorough risk assessment by competent auditors seems to be warrented in this case.

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