SpaceX workplace injury rates are rocketing

Musk outfit's figures almost 10 times worse than industry averages

Workplace safety data reported to the US government for 2023 indicates that SpaceX's injury rate continues to surpass the industry average.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) disclosed the numbers, which were picked up by Reuters. The biz's injury rate in 2023 varied by facility, ranging from 1.5 injuries per 100 workers at SpaceX's Redmond site up to 7.6 for West Coast rocket recovery.

For reference, the average for the space industry was 0.8 injuries per 100 workers, meaning the rate in SpaceX's West Coast rocket recovery arm was almost 10 times worse than the average.

On the one hand, SpaceX is a leading player in America's private space industry right now, so perhaps it's expected to experience more injuries than others. On the other hand, OSHA also revealed that on the whole, injuries at SpaceX were on the rise. The Cape Canaveral and Redmond facilities were about average at 0.9 and 0.8 injuries per 100 workers in 2022, but in 2023 this shot up to 2.5 and 1.5 respectively. In terms of industry averages, the current injury rate is arguably undesirable.

Of the five sites OSHA provided data for in both 2022 and 2023, only two saw a decline: Hawthorne from 1.8 to 1.7 and McGregor going from 2.7 down to 1.7. However, both were still well above the industry average.

It's not clear how good SpaceX's track record has been in the long term. OSHA only disclosed data from 2021 to 2023 and even then the data is incomplete.

Despite SpaceX's objectively poor record lately on workplace safety, it hasn't faced particularly severe consequences. Per the report, the company had only been fined a total of $50,836 in the past decade, and was dinged a mere $3,600 for an accident that nearly caused the amputation of a worker's foot. SpaceX was actually fined three times more for a single paperwork mistake last year.

One SpaceX employee has died on the job while another fell into a coma after a skull fracture, the two worst cases the company has seen.

Just last month, SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell posted on X that "astronaut and personnel safety is SpaceX's highest priority," showcasing the company's new emergency chutes being tested at the company's Cape Canaveral facility.

SpaceX isn't the only big tech company that has a relatively poor recent track record with workplace safety. Amazon boasted 6.9 injuries per worker in 2022, and an independent report found that 69 percent of workers had to cancel shifts without pay to deal with pain and exhaustion.

We've asked SpaceX to comment on the reported injury rates, and we'll update if we hear back. The company has not yet issued a public statement. ®

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