In Elon Musk’s race to take humanity to Mars as fast as possible, SpaceX’s has taken a toll on the safety of its workers, making the company one of the most dangerous places to work in the aerospace industry with over 600 people injured.
A recent investigation conducted by Reuters exposed a culture of neglect and indifference towards worker safety at SpaceX’s facilities nationwide, the news agency was able to gather more than 600 incidents at SpaceX, ranging from serious to disabling, and even some deaths.
The 600 cases included 100 workers that suffered lacerations, 29 broken bones, 17 hands or fingers crushed, nine head injuries, four concussions and one traumatic brain injury. There were also five burns and five electrocutions. Another 170 reports were minor injuries.
But these numbers could be even larger, as two thirds of the cases that Reuters accounted for do not appear in SpaceX’s reports to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
SpaceX had failed to report these cases annually, there is a huge gap between 2017 and 2020 where the company did not report anything to the OSHA. Just taking into account the records that were submitted, most of SpaceX’s locations had an annual rate higher than the average in the space industry –the average is 0.8 injuries per 100 workers.
Reuters found no sanction was made for SpaceX data-reporting failures.
In 2022, OSHA reported an average of 4.8 injuries per 100 workers at Brownsville, Texas SpaceX facility –six times higher than the average. It also accounted for a rate of 2.7 for the facility in McGregor, Texas, making the Lone Star State the most dangerous to work for SpaceX.
SpaceX workers told Reuters that there is little to none training regarding security and that staffers were in charge of their own security. Workers said that in Musk’s vision to improve performance and to meet its deadlines for space missions, there is little time to speak about safety measures. Some employees even said that Musk discouraged workers from wearing safety yellow because he dislikes bright colors.
Musk himself has played with flamethrowers in his companies’ facilities with no protection for him or his employees.
Some have said that cutting safety costs, saving time in capacitance and skipping worker safeguards has helped the company be lucrative and to be at the top of its competitors.
There have been few consequences for failing safety measures and even for deaths, OSHA only fined the company $50,836 for a worker’s death and seven serious incidents.
Workers have expressed that the company should be accountable for the little safety on its facilities and for the damages it has caused them.