A recent article published by Automotive News suggests that at least 12 Rivian employees have pointed out various safety issues at the electric automaker’s factory in Normal, Illinois. Reportedly, the 12 employees already filed complaints with federal regulators via the UAW, which is actively trying to unionize Rivian.
The various complaints point the finger at Rivian for allegedly ignoring potential hazards and not putting the safety of workers first. Moreover, there are reports of multiple injuries, as well as the use of electrical cables after they were previously disposed of. Overall, the gist is that Rivian is avoiding such issues in order to continue to ramp up its production efforts without pause. An employee who filed a complaint, Don Jackson, revealed in an interview via Automotive News:
“There’s a certain level of danger involved in manufacturing. But I was expecting safety to be a little more prioritized.”
Another employee, Kailey Harvey, who’s a former member of the UAW, said he was happy with Rivian’s focus on worker safety early on. However, he added that the company stopped prioritizing it as production increased.
Rivian worker Heather Barschdorf claims she contacted CEO RJ Scaringe directly to point out a safety concern. The pregnant employee said the fumes in her area were making her sick even when she wasn’t pregnant, and that she already had a miscarriage and was at high risk for another.
Barschdorf said Scaringe never replied, though someone from human resources met with her. She also said she was provided with a dust mask but not a respirator. She explained in a letter to OSHA:
“Many people in my area have become sick with flu like symptoms from exposure to the galvanized metal parts we are welding. I have asked for accommodation as a pregnant person including ventilation for paint fumes and respiratory protection numerous times and have been denied.”
Meanwhile, Rivian notes that the small number of complaints represents just 0.2 percent of the company’s nearly 7,000 workers at the Illinois factory. Moreover, Rivian pointed to the data it must send to OSHA, which it says is proof it’s already doing much better than its rivals with regard to the health and safety of employees.
Based on the OSHA data, Rivian’s incident rate is just 2.5 cases for every 200,000 hours worked. The industry average sits at 6.4 cases. In addition, the data shows a clear improvement in Rivian’s safety performance since the beginning of 2022, with an impressive 44 percent drop in incidents. Rivian provided an email statement related to the safety concerns, with a specific reference to a report suggesting employees have been forced to share respirators:
“Creating a safe and inspiring environment is a daily practice we expect of every Rivian employee and is part of our operating procedures. We are not aware of any manager directing employees to share respirators.”
Keep in mind that the 12 employees just filed their complaints with the help of the UAW over the last few months, though the alleged and reported concerns and incidents may have happened at any time during their employment with the automaker.
OSHA will be looking into the various complaints and has already opened investigations into at least seven. Previously, the government regulator issues four citations against Rivian, three of which ended in settlements.