An investigation by Reuters into unsafe working conditions at SpaceX has discovered more than 600 injuries dating back to 2014 that were not publicly reported until now. Current and former employees, cited in the report, attribute the injuries to CEO Elon Musk’s aggressive deadlines and aversion to bureaucracy, claiming that his goal of reaching Mars quickly has caused the company to cut corners and ignore proper protocols.
The injury rates at some of SpaceX’s facilities are significantly higher than the industry average of .8 injuries or illnesses per 100 workers, according to Reuters. In Brownsville, Texas, the 2022 injury rate was 4.8 per 100 workers. In Hawthorne, California, it was 1.8. And in McGregor, Texas, where rocket tests are conducted, the injury rate was 2.7.
Employees have suffered various injuries, including broken bones, lacerations, crushed fingers, burns, electric shocks, and serious head wounds. This includes an incident that resulted in an employee, Florentino Rios, being blinded in 2021, and another that left Francisco Cabada in a coma since January 2022. Additionally, Lonnie LeBlanc was killed in 2014 at SpaceX’s McGregor site when wind knocked him off the trailer of an improperly loaded truck. Despite these incidents, SpaceX has only paid minimal fines as a result of its safety lapses. Following LeBlanc’s death, the company settled with OSHA for $7,000, according to Reuters.
Reuters interviewed over two dozen current or former employees, as well as individuals “with knowledge of SpaceX safety practices.” One former SpaceX manager told Reuters that “workers take care of their safety themselves,” and others said employees were instructed not to wear bright-colored safety gear because Musk does not like it. Additionally, SpaceX has frequently failed to submit injury data to regulators throughout its history, reported Reuters.