06 Feb Worker Injuries In Auto Manufacturing
While Arizona lies to the west of America’s so-called “Auto Alley” and “Auto West Corridor” in which a majority of automotive manufacturing is based, rates of employment in the industry continue to grow steadily in the state.
In late 2016, California-based luxury electric car maker Lucid Motors (formerly Atieva) announced plans to build a manufacturing plant on a 500-acre site in Casa Grande, Arizona, southeast of Phoenix. The facility will produce the company’s “Air” model, which, with an expected base model MSRP of $60,000 is intended to compete with the Tesla Model “S”.
While the timetables for construction and startup have been delayed, Lucid has said the facility will eventually create 2,000 skilled jobs. In part because of the Lucid announcement, Central Arizona College began working on a program to develop a pool of qualified workers.
Assembly Lines Remain Dangerous Places for Workers
An automobile assembly line today would likely be quite alien to an auto worker from decades past, with many jobs are previously done by humans having been taken over by industrial robots. Despite this and many other technological advances, however, auto assembly lines remain hazardous places to work.
Among the most common injuries experienced by production workers are:
- Musculoskeletal Disorders – These often debilitating injuries are often the result of physical overexertion, particularly by workers whose jobs regularly require lifting objects or working overhead.
- Repetitive Motion Injuries – As the name suggests, these injuries, typically to soft or connective tissue, develop over time as the result of frequently repeated movements during the course of a work shift.
- Industrial Illnesses – While the reported incidence of work-related illnesses has declined, auto current manufacturing techniques necessarily rely on the use of solvents and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
- Fall Injuries – Whether from a height or by slipping at floor level.
- Injuries From Machinery or Falling Objects
- Hearing loss from extended exposure to high noise levels.
In the most severe cases, the consequences of auto plant accidents can be dismemberment, permanent disability, and even death.
The Tesla Experience – A Cautionary Tale
In order to meet the media-fueled demand for its $35,000 Model 3, Tesla has rapidly expanded production capability at its flagship Fremont, California plant, which employs some 10,000 workers. What were initially anecdotal reports of dangerous conditions at the plant are now supported by a May 2017 report based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records.
- According to the report, Tesla’s push to increase productivity have resulted in the following, based on the most recent available information:
- A total recordable incidence rate (the average number of non-fatal injuries per 100 workers) 31 percent above the auto industry average.
- A rate of serious injuries (those which result in days off from work, restricted work assignments, or transfers) approximately two times the industry’s average rate.