© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People are seen working on the SpaceX Starbase in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., August 19, 2023. REUTERS/Veronica G. Cardenas/File Photo
By Marisa Taylor
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. employee security officers fined Elon Musk’s SpaceX $3,600 this month after an accident at its website in Washington state led to a “near amputation,” in accordance with inspection data reviewed by Reuters.
A Reuters investigation late final yr discovered that Musk’s rocket firm disregarded worker-safety rules and normal practices at its amenities nationwide. Through interviews and authorities data, the information group documented at the least 600 beforehand unreported accidents of SpaceX employees since 2014.
SpaceX has not responded to Reuters’ questions on any of the incidents, together with the dying of 1 employee and the damage of one other who stays in a coma after his cranium was fractured throughout a 2022 rocket engine malfunction. The firm additionally didn’t reply to a request for remark in regards to the new security high-quality.
Inspectors from Washington state’s Department of Labor and Industries found new security violations on the firm’s Redmond, Washington, website final December, in a go to prompted by employee complaints, in accordance with state inspection data obtained by Reuters below an open data request. An company spokesperson stated that SpaceX can nonetheless enchantment the choice.
The inspectors concluded the location lacked a “thorough safety program,” enough communication of labor guidelines, and a system to “correct violations,” the data stated. The “near amputation,” as inspectors referred to as it, occurred after a roll of fabric fell and crushed a employee’s foot.
Managers at SpaceX informed the state inspectors that it was a one-time incident and the issue was mounted.
Inspectors, nevertheless, discovered that staff weren’t required to put on steel-toe footwear, despite the fact that the rolls of supplies they needed to load right into a machine had gotten heavier – growing from about 80 kilos to 300 kilos (36 kg to 136 kg) every.
One employee on the website informed inspectors that “safety can get overlooked” as a result of the corporate’s “goal is to make as much as we can in a short amount of time,” in accordance with the data. The injured employee stated the machine the place the rolls had been loaded “had been deliberately set up incorrectly for the purpose of increasing the production rate during the material loading phase.”
The employee, who was not recognized within the report, informed inspectors that the matter had not been addressed and that security officers on the firm don’t “have the reading comprehension nor the overall competency to implement a safety plan at the Redmond site.”
In a separate incident reported lower than 24 hours later, an unidentified Redmond worker was hospitalized for a damaged ankle after they jumped off a dock throughout a fireplace alarm, which inspectors stated the corporate couldn’t have foreseen. SpaceX was not fined consequently.
The Reuters report final yr discovered that employee security companies fined the billionaire’s rocket firm a complete of $50,836 for numerous violations within the final decade.
SpaceX’s historical past of accidents and regulatory run-ins underscores the bounds of worker-safety regulation. Fines are capped by regulation and pose little deterrent for main corporations, in accordance with specialists in U.S. employee security. Federal and state regulators additionally endure from persistent understaffing of inspectors, they stated.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which has paid SpaceX greater than $11.8 billion as a non-public house contractor, didn’t reply to questions in regards to the matter. The house company has repeatedly declined to touch upon the corporate’s security report, saying solely that the company has the choice of imposing contract provisions that require SpaceX to “have a robust and effective safety program and culture.”
Last month, the spouse of the employee who’s in a coma after his cranium was fractured filed a negligence lawsuit towards the corporate. NASA and SpaceX haven’t commented on that grievance.