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Elon Musk’s aversion to bright colors led SpaceX to workplace safety concerns: report

Nature

Technology

Several current and former SpaceX employees have criticized the company for worker safety concerns as CEO Elon Musk heads to Mars.

A Reuters investigation found a “lax” safety culture, led by Musk’s aversion to bright colors.

During his frequent visits to SpaceX’s Hawthorne, Texas, facility, Musk played with a never-before-seen flamethrower while discouraging workers from wearing safety vests.

Some machines, usually made in industrial safety yellow, were painted black or blue, while the yellow safety tape was replaced with red.

The company also failed to cordon off danger zones because workers often got too close to engine testing and rocket building facilities, the investigation found.

Since 2014, at least 600 SpaceX workers have been injured, Reuters reported, with most of them classified as serious, including nine head injuries.

An undocumented incident occurred in 2014 when a new employee and his colleagues were tasked with carrying foam insulation to the company’s main hangar, but had no straps to secure it.

People work at SpaceX Starbase in Brownsville, Texas. A recent report reveals that a “lax” safety culture at Elon Musk’s company led to hundreds of injuries. SpaceX workers in Brownsville, Texas
REUTERS

Former Marine Lonnie LeBlanc decided to use his weight to hold the foam down by sitting on it in the back of a truck trailer, but a gust of wind knocked him over, sending him flying headfirst. on the sidewalk, where he was pronounced dead.

An investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that SpaceX failed to protect LeBlanc from obvious danger because employees did not have convenient access to “tethers” and had no process or oversight for transporting cargo.

This relaxed safety culture comes as Musk prepares to land his spaceships on Mars to save the human race.

Former and current employees say the lax safety culture is due in part to Elon Musk’s obsession with going to Mars.
REUTERS
Since 2014, at least 600 SpaceX workers have been injured, Reuters reported, with most of them classified as serious, including nine head injuries.
REUTERS

“Elon’s concept that SpaceX is on a mission to get to Mars as quickly as possible and save humanity permeates every part of the company,” said Tom Moline, a former SpaceX senior avionics engineer.

“The company justifies putting aside anything that could obstruct the achievement of this objective, including worker safety. »

Moline was among a group of nine employees fired in the summer of 2022 after writing an open letter raising workplace complaints about Musk’s “harmful behavior” on social media.

Former US Marine Lonnie LeBlanc was killed after being knocked from a truck by a gust of wind while transporting foam to another SpaceX facility.
via REUTERS
During some visits, Musk reportedly played with a never-before-seen flamethrower while his deputies found it hilarious.
REUTERS

In another incident in January 2022, Francisco Cabada was “performing a routine pressure valve test” on an engine when the pressure increased faster than expected.

Cabada stood too close to a valve and when the pressure increased, he threw a shield at the valve, hitting it, causing a skull fracture and head trauma and forcing Cabada into a coma.

SpaceX was fined twice totaling $18,475 for safety violations leading to Cabada’s injuries.

An aerial view of the SpaceX Starbase in Brownsville, Texas on August 25, 2022.
REUTERS

“I once walked through the door of my building and there was a giant crane there,” said Paige Holland-Thielen, a former operations and automation engineer at Hawthorne. “A group of people wearing hard hats started yelling at me to go inside.”

Another aspect of security that was allegedly overlooked by the company is the number of hours worked per week by an employee, who was working “grueling hours trying to meet Musk’s deadlines.”

At times, employees slept overnight at the facility to work more than 80 hours a week, the media investigation noted.

In an effort to speed up work while reducing costs, the company manufactured rocket parts in tents near a beach on the Gulf of Mexico, with workers welding in temperatures above 100 degrees.

Workers repair part of a fence at the SpaceX Starbase on August 19, 2023.
REUTERS

When the weather turned bad, the company closed the tents, cutting off important ventilation necessary for safe welding practices.

“We could see the clouds of dust filling the tent,” recalled Phillip Fruge, a welder. “Everyone was breathing it, day after day. »

The Post has contacted SpaceX for comment.




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