Tesla confirmed that OSHA investigations are underway at the company’s Nevada Gigafactory after the body of 61 year old employee, Michael Johnston, was discoeverd on the third floor earlier this week. Although early reports from the Storey County PD seem to indicate that Johnston’s death appears to have been medical in nature, what exactly happened to the 61-year-old worker remains a mystery.
“We have been deeply saddened by this incident, and our thoughts continue to be with our employee’s family. While we are still awaiting the autopsy report, we have initiated an investigation with law enforcement agencies and have no reason to believe that the incident was caused by anything related to this employee’s work,” Tesla said in a statement to Business Insider. “In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to support our employees and the family through an extremely difficult time.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has criticized the safety of Tesla’s labor force before. In March of 2019, for example, OSHA revealed that days off the job because of work-related injuries and illness in 2018 were 300% higher than they were in 2017, which Bloomberg cited as, “an indication of just how much strain they were under as they manufactured electric cars at scale for the first time.”
“The sharp increase in the number of days away from work suggests a greater severity of injuries,” explained Deborah Berkowitz, who served as OSHA’s chief of staff under President Barack Obama and called the data “alarming.” The rise in the average time missed — to 66 work days in 2018 from 35 the year before — “is a red flag,” she said at the time. Tesla was also hit with a $30,000 fine in January for violating six different California labor regulations with the construction of its production “tent” last year. In response, Tesla allegedly fired the employees who reported the unsafe working conditions, according an article published by Reveal in June of 2018.
A GoFundMe page launched by Johnston’s daughter, Mariah, aimed at raising $1000 for the deceased man’s memorial service remembered him as, “a very dedicated and hard working father.” At the time of this writing, the fundraiser had just met its initial goal.