SpaceX has undoubtedly cemented its leadership position in the emerging space industry, but it may have come at a steep price. Shocking news investigation by Reuters reports 600 workplace accidents and one death at Elon Musk’s rocket company, highlighting a dangerous disregard for safety practices in the name of SpaceX’s ambitious goals.
In its report, Reuters spoke with more than a dozen current and former employees and reviewed medical and workers’ compensation records. The files included reports of more than 100 workers suffering cuts or lacerations, 29 with fractures or dislocations, 17 whose hands or fingers were “crushed” and nine with head injuries, including one fractured skull, four concussions and one head injury. according to Reuters. Reports also include five burns, five electrocutions, eight accidents resulting in amputations and seven eye injuries.
SpaceX employees have described the workplace as chaotic and staff are often undertrained and overworked to the point that they are forced to skip safety procedures to meet the company’s tight deadlines. “Elon’s idea that SpaceX is on a mission to get to Mars as quickly as possible and save humanity permeates every part of the company,” Tom Moline, a former SpaceX engineer, told Reuters. “The company justifies putting aside anything that could hinder the achievement of this objective, including the safety of workers. »
SpaceX also failed to report workplace accidents to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and about two-thirds of the injuries found by Reuters occurred during the years when SpaceX has not submitted its reports.
OSHA and California OSHA, a state-run workplace safety regulator, fined SpaceX a total of $50,836 for violations involving the death of a worker and seven incidents of serious security. In response, SpaceX has regularly denied allegations that it disregards worker safety and pushed back against the agency’s findings.
SpaceX is currently focused on launches its Starship megarocket a second time after his first flight it didn’t go very well. The Starship’s maiden launch ended with a fiery explosion and the rocket has remained grounded since then awaiting a safety review. Despite his first failed flight, Musk continued to push for a second test flight within two months of its April launch.
SpaceX is in a hurry to launch Starship because it is under contract to use a modified version of its rocket to land humans on the Moon as part of NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions. From there, Musk’s ultimate vision for his company is to land humans on Mars and build a colony on the Red Planet. SpaceX CEO recently claims that an unmanned spacecraft could land on Mars within the next three to four years.
Musk talks about his ambitious Mars plans as a way to save humanity and sustain our species beyond Earth, hence the sense of urgency. As a result, Musk’s implementation of his space ambitions has shifted toward an aggressive timeline and unrealistic expectations.
SpaceX therefore does not waste its time on safety regulations and instead insists that its employees are responsible for their protection, according to the Reuters report. The report cites a 2014 incident in which a SpaceX employee named Lonnie LeBlanc died at a SpaceX facility in McGregor, Texas, while transporting insulation foam. LeBlanc allegedly offered to sit on the insulation because there were no straps to hold the cargo on the truck during its journey to the hangar.
Another incident took place in January 2022 when a part flew off during a pressure test of a Raptor V2 rocket engine, fractured skull of SpaceX employee Francisco Cabada, which put him in a coma. Employees familiar with the incident told Reuters the part had a defect, but it was not repaired before testing.
“SpaceX’s idea of safety is, ‘We let you decide what’s safe for you,’ which really means there’s no liability,” Travis Carson, former welder from Brownsville and production supervisor at SpaceX. “This is a terrible approach to take in industrial environments.”
The Reuters report also highlighted Musk’s personal disregard for safety, with the CEO documented waving a flamethrower at the company’s Hawthorne facility and his request to paint the color yellow machine safety to change it to black or blue due to his dislike. in bright colors.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
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