Many have gone to work at Tesla inspired by CEO Elon Musk and his mission. What some found, they said, was a chaotic factory floor where speed trumped safety. Credit: Musk photo by David McNew, photo illustration by Gabriel Hongsdusit/Reveal

An investigation of Tesla’s workplace injuries by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX has received an impact award from the Third Coast International Audio Festival.

The Third Coast Richard/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition — dubbed the “Oscars of radio” — recognizes excellence in audio storytelling. The story, done in partnership with San Francisco-based KQED, was the lead story on the Reveal episode “Tesla and Beyond: Hidden problems of Silicon Valley.”

It was produced by Will Evans and Alyssa Jeong Perry and edited by Taki Telonidis and Ziva Branstetter.

The investigation examined the safety problems surrounding the production of Tesla’s electric vehicles, in a factory employing some 10,000 workers.

Since Tesla’s founding 15 years ago, the company’s all-electric cars have achieved cult status among enthusiasts.

The rollout of the Model 3 has been bumpy, as manufacturing problems delayed production and frustrated customers. Reveal and KQED found that delays weren’t the only problem. The investigation uncovered serious safety concerns and risks to employees on the factory floor.

The investigation also uncovered numerous employee injuries that should have been reported by law but were not. After Reveal and KQED began asking questions about Tesla’s undercounting of injuries, the company belatedly added 13 injuries to its 2017 injury logs.

Three days after the story began airing, California’s workplace safety agency, known as Cal/OSHA, opened an investigation of Tesla. Musk also lashed out at journalists from Reveal and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, D-California, called for an intensive “full facility audit” of Tesla and urged state lawmakers to strengthen laws governing the recording of worker injuries.

Tesla’s response to the story – calling Reveal “an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla” – prompted responses from other news outlets.

Slate wrote, “The tone the company is taking now borders on hysterical, and it appeals to people’s reflexive mistrust of the media in a way that feels awfully familiar in the Trump era.”

Fast Company noted that “the Elon Musk-founded car company – borrowing a PR tactic from President Trump – is claiming that a venerated journalism nonprofit is fake news. Reveal, however, has the receipts. It cites multiple on-site injuries that should have been recorded by Tesla.”

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