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Shining a light on a media darling with workplace safety issues

It is safe to say that Elon Musk is a media darling. The billionaire founder of electric car manufacturer Tesla is riding a wave of public and media adoration on the heels of the unveiling of the Model 3 Tesla. The recent offering is widely touted as the first affordable -- and attractive and cool -- electric car.

Demand for the Model 3 is through the roof and while early production has been slow, Musk vows it will be ramped up. "We're going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell," he said. Unfortunately, that hell seems likely to involve on-the-job injuries in Tesla plants, where workers are injured at a substantially higher rate than the auto industry norm, according to news reports.

The company says it will soon be rolling 20,000 cars out of its doors every month. According to Tesla factory workers, the ramped up production is already putting dents in their safety.

A group of workers recently submitted a letter expressing their concerns to the company's board: "One of the most serious issues concerns our health and safety," the missive stated. "Accidents happen every day. Severe incidents frequently impact morale and cause delays in production. We are losing great workers who are valuable to both our production team and to their families while they spend time on medical leave, recovering from preventable injuries."

That is not the kind of publicity Tesla wants, nor the kind of safe working environment that employees deserve.

The company's rate of injury in 2015 (the most recent data available) was 8.8 injuries per 100 workers. That is 31 percent higher than the rate found in the auto making industry as a whole.

Tesla says those safety problems are in the past and that it has made changes and transformed itself. "We now have the lowest injury rate in the industry by far," a company spokesperson said.

North Carolina workers injured on the job can file for workers' compensation benefits that include medical care and partial wage replacement. If your claim is denied, you can fight for your benefits with the help of a Charlotte attorney experienced in workers' comp appeals.

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