Claim 1: “We have a close-meshed control network. It is not as suggested that there are any special regulations, supposedly hardly any controls. The opposite is the case.”

Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke in the Tagesspiegel, September 29, 2023

Facts: Woidke uses one of the classic rhetorical diversionary maneuvers: reacting to an accusation that no one has made. In its reporting, Stern did not claim that there were hardly any controls. We wrote that “at least one employee of the State Office for Occupational Safety and Health has been driving to Tesla several times a month since January 2022.” This is what it says in the authority’s internal files, which are available to Stern. The inspector noted defects at almost every inspection. When Tesla fixed one problem, he found another one the next time. In one of several internal emails, a colleague writes that it is frustrating that “recurring errors constantly occur.”

Claim 2: “Firstly, every accident at work is one too many. We’re looking into it. This is also a top issue in the department at the Ministry of Health. The Minister of Health is personally dealing with it.”

Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke on ARD “Report from Berlin”, October 1, 2023 (from minute 25)

Facts: Stern has a total of 2,124 pages of internal files from the State Office for Occupational Safety and the Brandenburg Ministry of Health: internal emails to and from Tesla, protocols of inspections on the Tesla premises and accident reports from the factory. On none of these 2,124 pages did Stern find any indication that Health Minister Ursula Nonnemacher (Greens) had personally dealt with the issue. Of course it is still possible, not every conversation ends up as a note in official documents. However: Nonnemacher did not want to talk to Stern about the accidents. When stern reporters asked the minister in Potsdam on September 14, 2023 about the frequent accidents at work at Tesla, she ran away.

Claim 3: “As far as I know, Ingolstadt (the Audi factory there, editor) is a factory that was built at the end of the 1940s and has been running essentially the same way since then. Today, Tesla in Grünheide is still a huge construction site “Construction continues, new jobs are created and all of that together is a mix that makes it a bit more complicated, but we have the goal of making a significant improvement in the number of work accidents here too.”

Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke on ARD “Report from Berlin”, October 1, 2023 (from minute 25)

Facts: Stern reported last week “that Musk’s factory requested an ambulance or helicopter 247 times in the first year after opening. Converted to the number of employees, that’s a good three times as many emergencies in a similar period of time as, for example, in Audi’s factory in Ingolstadt .” The Prime Minister referred to this comparison in the interview. What’s interesting about his answer is what he didn’t say: He didn’t deny the fact how much more often Tesla had to call emergency doctors than Audi, for example. He only made excuses for it.

Claim 4: “Brandenburg’s Ministry of Health under Minister Ursula Nonnemacher (Greens), on the other hand, points out that, despite its size, the Tesla factory did not attract attention from the State Office for Occupational Safety and Health with an accumulation of serious accidents, on the contrary. According to the ministry, there were six in 2021 during the construction period and a total of six in 2022 There have been serious accidents, four of them involving employees of construction and assembly companies on the site, and one case so far this year. In total, that’s only seven serious work accidents at Tesla in three years.”Tagesspiegel, September 28, 2023

Facts: At this point we need to go into some detail in order to correctly classify this claim. This also has to do with German data protection: There are basically no official statistics on the total number of work accidents in Germany. What you can officially query is the number of rescue missions at the Tesla factory. Accordingly, the company called a helicopter or ambulance 247 times in the first year since opening. The number of cases in which Tesla requests emergency medical assistance alone is in stark contrast to the three serious accidents per year cited by the state government.

During its research, the research team came across a file note from the State Office for Occupational Safety and Health. This shows that accidents occurred on the factory premises almost every day over a long period of time. Between June and November 2022 alone, Tesla itself reported 190 reportable accidents to the Brandenburg authorities. In Germany, a company must report all work-related accidents after which employees are unable to work for more than three days. Nonnemacher’s Ministry of Health did not dispute this number when asked by Stern when we asked about it before the first publication.

In the days following the publication of the Stern research, Nonnemacher’s ministry then focused on pointing out the significantly low number of only seven “serious accidents” in the years 2021 to 2023, despite these – again: 190 accidents – reported by Tesla. What constitutes a serious accident or not is at the discretion of the authorities. And the following examples will show how puzzling this classification by the state office can appear.

In 2022, for example, the agency investigated three cases that it classified as “serious”:

According to the internal rescue operations list, there were at least two emergency calls due to amputations in 2022. In addition, various accidents due to crushes, breaks and cuts. At least one worker also sustained lung damage on the factory premises and was therefore unable to work fully for many months. He opened a dumpster and inhaled the toxic Nikutex gas. The state office apparently did not view all of these cases as serious.

Claim 5: “Tesla must create transparency. Communication must be better, transparency.”

Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke in the Tagesspiegel, September 29, 2023

Facts:Tesla needs to become more transparent, that’s right. Stern sent the car company around 100 questions weeks before the research was published, and Tesla did not answer a single one. But Woidke’s state government also has a transparency problem. Stern tried to find out more about the working conditions in the Tesla factory from the responsible state office for occupational safety. However, the spokesman for the Brandenburg Ministry of Health downplayed the government’s frequent anger with the company. For example, he claimed that there had been “no evidence of inadequate exhaust air systems” either during the construction phase or since the start of production. According to his own ministry’s files, this is simply not true. The authority’s files contain numerous notes about air problems at the Tesla factory.

Claim 6: According to the Oder-Spree district, the environmental accidents at the US electric car manufacturer Tesla in Grünheide near Berlin had no negative consequences for the groundwater. “None of the known incidents resulted in any contamination of the groundwater,” the district press office told the German Press Agency. RBB, October 1, 2023

Facts: There was no contamination of the groundwater, said the press office of the Oder-Spree district, which is responsible for monitoring water protection, last weekend. However, she didn’t explain how she could suddenly be so sure about it. On September 15, 2023, a good two weeks earlier, the same press office had written to the star: “Substances that are hazardous to water cannot penetrate the ground either on the company’s premises or at any other location within the jurisdiction of the lower water authority of the Oder-Spree district be completely excluded.”

The Tesla factory is located just one and a half kilometers as the crow flies from the wells in Hohenbinde, one of several plants that supply drinking water to 170,000 people in the region. According to Destern’s research, there have been many incidents since the factory was built that the authorities apparently knew nothing about. Former factory firefighters and waste disposal workers unanimously affirm under oath that oil or diesel leaked somewhere on the factory premises almost every day over long periods of time. According to experts, even small amounts of such substances may be enough to contaminate the wells. That’s what the head of the regional water supplier says, but that’s also what scientists like Martin Pusch from the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin say: “Even a small amount, like a leaking canister of oil or diesel on the Tesla factory property, “may be enough to contaminate the wells in Hohenbinde for many years, for example.”

Claim 7: In one case, soil had to be replaced when extinguishing water seeped away to prevent contamination. “In all other cases, technical and organizational protective measures prevented contamination of the groundwater.” That is also the plan. RBB, October 1, 2023

Facts: The Brandenburg State Office for the Environment initially provided stern and now also other media with a table with 26 environmental accidents since the factory opened. Accordingly (see column 8), contaminated soil was removed and disposed of as a protective measure in a total of five cases.

Source: LfU table

Claim 8: The Brandenburg Ministry of the Environment also referred to regular inspections and the punishment of violations. The ministry is convinced “that the State Office for the Environment is carrying out its monitoring activities properly,” explained a spokeswoman. Tagesspiegel, September 29, 2023

Facts: According to its own information, the Brandenburg State Office for the Environment knows of 26 accidents. These are exclusively incidents that Tesla itself reported to the office. Conversely, this means: There are no accidents on the list that the office discovered through its own checks. If you look at the table of incidents (see above), you notice something else: In most cases, the environmental agency was only informed (column six) after the accident had already been eliminated: There is often a gap of several days, sometimes weeks, between the incident and the report . This seems more like the authorities’ surveillance is often limited to an employee reading and filing Tesla’s accident report.

Claim 9: “However, it would be worrying if there were irreversible groundwater impairment. This can be ruled out based on the available monitoring reports,” according to the district’s press office. DPA, October 1, 2023

Facts: There are around two dozen groundwater measuring points on the Tesla factory property. The monitoring reports from these measuring points that the district is talking about here are written once a month. However, from a company that Tesla commissioned. Whether the “groundwater impairment,” as the district claims, can really be “excluded based on the available monitoring reports” is something the public cannot verify at this point in time. Because these reports are not public. In addition, even the regional water supplier, the Strausberg-Erkner water association, says it does not know them.

Claim 10: When asked whether he could rule out that the groundwater under the factory was contaminated, Brandenburg’s Environment Minister said: “I can rule it out. The monitoring is working.”Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel (Greens) told stern on September 24, 2023 -Reporting team

Facts:stern research revealed that there were a whole series of accidents (see also claim 6), of which Vogel’s environmental office was apparently unaware. One of the most blatant cases: On July 21, 2023, inspectors from the water authority found an illegal gas station on the Tesla site, hidden in a party tent. According to consistent accounts from informants, around 250 liters of diesel were said to have leaked weeks before, on May 4, 2023. When Stern reporters showed Environment Minister Vogel photos of this gas station, he said: “We know that problems have arisen. Ok, you are now asking me ad hoc, I am not prepared for this event. I am not ready to provide any further information admit.” Then he ran away.