Records at the cost of life: SpaceX neglects workers’ health for profit

The world’s leading player in the field of rocket launches, SpaceX, has recently attracted its attention not with records in space, but with critical internal problems in production

SpaceX workers pose in front of a rocket that crashed during an unmanned test. Photo: REUTERS

A new Reuters investigation has revealed a disturbing trend in this aerospace company. According to data submitted by the company to regulators in 2023, the injury rate at SpaceX has been significantly higher than the industry average for the second year in a row. 

In 2022, about 600 cases of injuries were recorded at SpaceX production, which included fractures, cuts, burns, electric shocks, amputations and serious head injuries. In 2023, according to data on the level of injuries at SpaceX, the situation deteriorated significantly. The example of SpaceX in Brownsville, Texas, shows an increase in the injury rate from 4.8 in 2022 to 5.9 in 2023. Compared with the industry average of 0.8 injuries per 100 employees, serious safety problems are evident at Elon Musk’s aerospace company.

In 2022, SpaceX had an occupational injury rate six times higher than the average in the space industry. Photo: REUTERS

Most of the injuries were recorded in the team that is responsible for the recovery of the rockets. Workers on the Pacific Coast have an injury rate of 7.6 per 100 workers, nine times higher than the industry average. The Atlantic team fared a little better – 3.5 injuries per 100 employees.

Although SpaceX is the only participant currently engaged in the return of boosters from unmanned spacecraft. However, this is not an excuse for such a high level of injury. This may indicate that the pace of launches is too fast or the corporate culture does not pay enough attention to security.

Experts believe that the high level of injuries indicates more serious systemic problems. David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University, expressed concern that this could indicate poor production quality. And this simultaneously worries commercial partners and NASA, which signs contracts worth billions of dollars with SpaceX.

A technician is working on a SpaceX Starship rocket. Recently, the company has been criticized for its weak safety culture. Image: SpaceX

Elon Musk’s company has consistently denied accusations that they neglect the safety of their employees in pursuit of contracts. Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell noted that safety was SpaceX’s highest priority. But the company has not yet responded to a Reuters request regarding the deterioration of the situation at work, and what measures SpaceX takes to reduce the level of injuries.

Safety is not SpaceX’s only problem, it has also been accused of discrimination and significant pay differences based on gender and nationality. Since SpaceX is a key partner of NASA and an important participant in the space industry, solving these problems in the workplace becomes extremely important.

Earlier, we reported on how the wife of a SpaceX employee injured to a coma filed a lawsuit against Elon Musk.

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