Tesla Takes Aim at Cutting Wildfire Smoke Exposure for Nevada Gigafactory Workers

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This June, Tesla confirmed that it would begin construction on its massive Gigafactory in Nevada in 2016, with the ultimate goal of producing 500,000 cars annually by 2020. This week, Nevada’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opened an investigation into the company following complaints from former and current employees about poor working conditions and inadequate safety precautions at the facility. Now, in response to the investigation, Tesla has announced plans to introduce air filters to mitigate secondhand smoke exposure inside its factory.

Smoke and ash billowed into adjacent communities, including Sparks, which is home to Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, during the course of the previous week as a major wildfire tore through tens of thousands of acres in California.

Tesla has taken measures to protect staff members as much as possible from the Mosquito Fire’s smoke, but the corporation refrained from laying off workers.

Tesla alerted workers at the site that the building’s heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) system was switched to a “recirculation mode to minimise the amount of outside air brought into the factory,” according to an internal memo shared by CNBC.

According to the U.S. Air Quality Index, the area around the Tesla site had “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” air quality on Thursday and Friday with about 57 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic metre of air.

People of all ages are recommended to seriously limit outside activities when the air quality is so bad and to use a mask outside to filter smoke and other pollutants. In order to keep pollutants outside their homes and places of business, they are also encouraged to keep their windows closed.

Over the past year, the HVAC filters at the Nevada Gigafactory have been upgraded to a MERV 13 level or higher in order to catch wildfire particulates. Tesla informed staff that these filters have been replaced more frequently this year and that this trend should continue given the hazy circumstances.

Last year, the area was also afflicted by wildfires and air pollution. For instance, the Caldor Fire in California, which burnt more than 220,000 acres in 2021, destroyed homes and other land while also causing dangerous air quality in the region, including in Nevada.

“Climate change, mostly caused by the combustion of fossil fuels, is increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires not only in California but also throughout the world,” claims the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

This week, employees who frequently visit or are stationed in outside locations were advised to pick up N95 masks from a Gigafactory office and kept informed of air quality conditions.

According to the CalFire website, the Mosquito Fire was 20% contained as of late Friday. Cooler weather was predicted for the weekend, which was supposed to help firefighters put out the flames.

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