Dagens Nyheter: 26 serious accidents at Swedish Northvolt’s facilities since 2019

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Hundreds of documents from within the company, as well as from the Work Environment Authorities and the Police highlight several safety risks and accidents in Northvolt’s facilities, an investigation by Dagens Nyheter reveals.

The Swedish battery giant’s ambition is to be the world’s greenest battery manufacturer and it operates a large-scale battery production factory, Northvolt Ett, with over 3500 employees in Northern Swedish town Skellefteå.

While production is taking place, the Skellefteå factory is simultaneously under construction to reach its full capacity.

The investigation shows that several safety hazards have occurred and that employees have voiced concerns about their safety.

Since 2019, 26 employees have been severely injured at the facilities of the company that specialises in manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, primarily for electric vehicles (EVs) and energy storage solutions.

The battery factory Northvolt Ett has over 3500 employees and is located in northern Swedish city Skellefteå, in Västerbotten county.

The accidents involve two deaths, losing an arm or finger, getting chemicals in the eyes or on the body, explosions, fires, and employees inhaling dangerous gas or smoke.

Sources from within the company describe to DN different types of safety hazards, such as machines not working, parts of the production temporarily being shut down to prevent injuries, use of unsuitable protective clothing, and inadequate risk assessments being done.

Wrong clothing

One of the reported deaths occurred in November 2023 because a 25-year-old employee was not wearing fire resistant clothing while conducting maintenance on a machine that exploded. The employee later died at the hospital as a result of burn injuries.

Northvolt’s internal risk assessment indicated no risk of explosion, although employees had previously requested appropriate protective clothing due to concerns about potential fires.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority investigated the fatal accident and decided to report Northvolt for prosecution.

In addition to this, the work authority has repeatedly identified serious deficiencies in the work environment.

In the past six months, three people have also been found dead in their homes after shifts at Northvolt. Recently, the police began investigating possible connections behind the still unexplained deaths.

Rapid growth

The battery giant states that they do not believe they stand out in terms of the number of accidents compared to other construction and industrial workplaces.

They also say that they invest heavily in systematic work environment efforts.

The company acknowledges their desire for rapid growth but asserts that it never occurs at the expense of employee safety.

Northvolt was founded in 2016 by two former Tesla executives. The company focuses on the entire battery production process, from raw material sourcing to battery cell manufacturing and recycling.

In its ambitious pursuit to accelerate the transition to a net-zero economy, the company has attracted substantial investments from governments, financial institutions, and major corporations, and is heavily investing in rapid growth of the business.

New facilities are also being planned in Sweden and abroad.