A Reuters investigation into unsafe working conditions at SpaceX has uncovered more than 600 injuries going back to 2014 that have not been publicly reported until now. Current and former employees cited in the report blame CEO Elon Musk’s aggressive deadlines and hatred of bureaucracy, alleging his goal of getting humans to Mars “as fast as possible” has led the company to cut corners and eschew proper protocols.
Injury rates at some SpaceX facilities are much higher than the industry average of .8 injuries or illnesses per 100 workers, Reuters found. At its Brownsville, Texas location, the 2022 injury rate was 4.8 per 100 workers. At the Hawthorne, California manufacturing facility, it was 1.8. In McGregor, Texas, where the company conducts rocket tests, the injury rate was 2.7.
Employees have suffered broken bones, lacerations, crushed fingers, burns, electric shocks and serious head wounds — including one that blinded Brownsville worker Florentino Rios in 2021 and another that left employee Francisco Cabada in a coma since January 2022. At SpaceX’s McGregor site, one worker, Lonnie LeBlanc, was killed in 2014 when wind knocked him off the trailer of an improperly loaded truck. Yet over the years, SpaceX has only paid meager fines as a result of its safety lapses. After LeBlanc’s death, the company settled with OSHA for $7,000, according to Reuters.
Reuters spoke to over two dozen current or former employees, as well as others “with knowledge of SpaceX safety practices.” One SpaceX ex-manager told Reuters that “workers take care of their safety themselves,” and others said employees were even told not to wear bright-colored safety gear because Musk does not like it. SpaceX has also repeatedly failed to submit injury data to regulators for much of its history, according to Reuters.