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Tesla factory in Grünheide, Brandenburg

Photo: Patrick Pleul / dpa

According to a media report, a striking number of accidents occur at the factory of the US car manufacturer Tesla in Grünheide, Brandenburg. The "star" reports this, citing previously unknown documents from authorities and emergency services.

According to the magazine, a memorandum from the State Office for Occupational Safety and Health shows that accidents happened almost daily on the factory premises over a longer period of time. Between June and November 2022 alone, Tesla itself reported at least 190 reportable accidents. In Germany, all accidents at work must be reported if employees are unable to work for at least three days.

According to Stern, documents from the rescue centers also document that Musk's factory requested an ambulance or helicopter 247 times in the first year after opening. Converted to the number of employees, this is – in a similar period – three times as many emergencies as, for example, at Audi's plant in Ingolstadt.

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According to the report, details of the accidents are also known: The rescue reports show, among other things, that a 50-kilogram wooden box fell on the head of an employee from a height of several meters or that an employee broke into a dosing furnace with red-hot aluminum with his foot. In addition, the rescuers had listed injuries from burns and hydrochloric acid as well as amputated limbs.

The district head of IG Metall for Berlin, Brandenburg and Saxony, Dirk Schulze, told Stern: "This frequency of accidents at work is not normal." Rather, it is a multiple of what is usual in other automotive companies. "I'm most worried that someday someone will die."

According to the report, Tesla itself did not comment on the documents or allegations made by employees and labor lawyers. Brandenburg's Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD) told the magazine that he was "not unaware" of accidents at the plant almost every day. However, he was "not Tesla's spokesman".

Apparently also 26 environmental incidents

In addition to accidents at work, the magazine also reports on several environmental incidents. Since its opening a year and a half ago, 26 environmental accidents have been reported. According to the magazine, this emerges from information from the Brandenburg State Office for the Environment, which is available to the dpa news agency in addition to the "Stern".

These include spills such as paint and diesel as well as fires. According to the State Environment Agency, the incidents are operational disruptions, not incidents within the meaning of the Major Accidents Ordinance. Tesla rejects concerns.

The Head of Ecosystems at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Martin Pusch, spoke of a fundamentally high threat to drinking water. "There is a high risk of impairment of the drinking water supply due to the low retention capacity of the subsoil," Pusch told dpa.

Brandenburg's Environment Minister Axel Vogel (Greens) admitted at the request of the "Stern" that problems had arisen on the factory premises, but saw no danger. When asked whether he could rule out the possibility that the groundwater under the factory was contaminated, he said, according to Stern: "I can rule it out. The surveillance is working.«

Tesla acknowledged that there have been several incidents on the factory site during construction and since commissioning. None of the incidents were incidents under the Federal Immission Control Act, and none of the incidents resulted in environmental damage, according to the company. If necessary, corrective measures have been implemented.

250 litres of diesel leaked

The accidents include leaks of 15,000 litres of paint, 13 tonnes of aluminium and 50 and 150 litres of diesel. According to information from the State Environment Agency, paint and aluminum were disposed of properly or properly. In the case of diesel, the floor had been excavated in one case. Stern also reported that up to 2020 litres of extinguishing water seeped into the ground after a fire in September 300; in a gas station on the site, 250 liters of diesel leaked in May 2023. The State Environment Agency did not provide any information on this.

The accident in April 2022 in the paint shop with 15,000 liters of paint mixing was already known. At that time, the lower water authority of the Oder-Spree district classified the liquid as slightly hazardous to water, it had not entered the groundwater. However, the Strausberg-Erkner water board spoke of an incident.

There have also been eight fires since March 2022. In one case, according to the State Environment Agency, a fire at an illegal waste disposal site was triggered in September 2022 by a shredded battery in a timber transport box. Extinguishing water had been absorbed, the affected unpaved area had been excavated. A few days later, cardboard and wood caught fire there. Extinguishing water had seeped away, but the soil samples were inconspicuous.

Tesla has been manufacturing electric cars in Grünheide since March 2022. Environmentalists and conservationists see dangers because part of the factory is located in a water protection area. Tesla has dismissed concerns. According to the company's latest figures, around 11,000 employees work at the factory in Grünheide, producing around 250,000 vehicles a year. Tesla wants to expand the plant.

Editor's note: We have subsequently supplemented the report with further information on the environmental incidents.