Electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive Inc. has found itself in hot water after at least a dozen employees at its Normal, Illinois plant accused the company of safety violations. The complaints, which were filed with federal regulators, were also filed in conjunction with the United Auto Workers (UAW), which has been trying to unionize the facility over the past year.
According to the complaints, the EV maker reportedly failed to address known hazards and placed a low priority on safety in the plant. This reportedly resulted in some employees sharing respirators used in the manufacturing process. One Rivian employee even claimed that management had fished damaged electrical cables out of the garbage bin and instructed employees to utilize them.
The complaint further described a variety of injuries that the plant’s workers have reportedly experienced, such as wounds, rib fractures, a shattered foot, a slit ear, and a crushed hand. Overall, the findings painted a picture of a carmaker that made compromises in safety while scaling up quickly to keep pace with the cutthroat EV market. Some workers also noted that a number of safety protocols ended up fading as production demands increased.
Don Jackson, one of the employees in the complaint, noted that he was expecting better from Rivian with regard to the company’s safety systems. “There’s a certain level of danger involved in manufacturing. But I was expecting safety to be a little more prioritized,” Jackson said.
Kailey Harvey, another employee and a former UAW member who joined the EV maker last year, noted that there have been “many near misses” with powered industrial vehicles in the plant. Harvey also noted that while Rivian’s factory was initially safe, things got worse as production increased. “At first, it was really great. Slowly, as production kept climbing, the concern for safety dropped,” Harvey noted.
A Rivian spokesperson disputed the claims made by the employees. The spokesperson, however, opted not to issue a comment regarding particular complaints due to employee privacy. The Rivian representative also highlighted that the complainants only make up 0.2% of the plant’s 6,700 workers.
Rivian noted that the data it compiles for OSHA indicates that the company is already outperforming its peers in terms of health and safety. The EV maker noted that its total incident rate is at 2.5 cases for every 200,000 hours worked, better than the industry average of 6.4 cases for every 200,000 hours worked.
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