SpaceX worker injuries rise as Elon Musk accelerates Mars mission, report says

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives for a U.S. Senate bipartisan forum on artificial intelligence at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13, 2023.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images
SpaceX employees have put their lives on the line to meet the aggressive pace of work that Chief Executive Elon Musk has demanded in pursuit of a Mars mission, according to a Reuters investigation.

The report documented over 600 previously undisclosed workplace injuries at SpaceX facilities since 2014, which Reuters said are only a part of the total number that is not publicly available.

Reuters examined injury logs and public records from the company’s six biggest facilities. SpaceX had not reported much of the injury data previously, in violation of regulatory standards. The investigation also included interviews with dozens of current and former SpaceX employees.

Among the injury data that Reuters gathered, over 100 workers experienced cuts or lacerations, 29 broke or dislocated bones, 17 had their hands and fingers crushed and nine had some form of serious head injury.

The unsafe workplace environment is a result of Musk’s view that SpaceX is on the front lines of saving humanity from a deteriorating planet, workers told Reuters. He has accelerated work deadlines, forcing employees to work long hours at fast paces.

To expedite productivity, workers also said that SpaceX dodges “a certain amount of red tape.” According to employee accounts from the investigation, senior SpaceX managers skirted safety protocols and product testing. Those shortcuts led to severe injuries, including employees suffering comas and sometimes, even death.

The decline of workplace safety at SpaceX and the accelerated speed of work reflects the rat race of the space industry at large, where SpaceX is typically viewed as the top player.

SpaceX, which makes rockets and operates Starlink, a satellite internet provider, has experienced rapid growth. It is currently valued at over $100 billion. Some expect the company to go public by 2027.

But as competition in the industry grows fiercer, investment in space has shrunk over the past year. The industry-wide pressure has become part of the reason that companies like SpaceX have put increasing pressure on being the first to innovate.

Read the full Reuters investigation here.