Elon Musk’s dislike of bright colors has raised concerns about SpaceX workplace safety: report

Several current and former SpaceX employees have criticized the company over concerns about worker safety as CEO Elon Musk races toward Mars.

A Reuters investigation has highlighted a “lax” safety culture, led by Musk’s distaste for bright colors.

During his frequent visits to the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, Texas, Musk played with a novelty flamethrower while discouraging workers from wearing safety vests.

Certain machines, typically manufactured in industrial safety yellow, were painted black or blue, while yellow safety tape was replaced with red.

The investigation revealed that the company has also not cordoned off danger areas, as workers often walk too close to engine testing and rocket construction facilities.

Since 2014 there have been at least 600 injuries among SpaceX workers, Reuters reported, many of which have been labeled serious, including nine head injuries.

An undocumented incident took place in 2014 when a new employee and his co-workers were tasked with transporting foam insulation to the company’s main hangar, but did not have straps to secure it.

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

Former Marine Lonnie LeBlanc decided to use his weight to hold onto the foam by sitting on top of it in the back of a truck trailer, but a gust of wind knocked him off his feet and sent him headlong to the pavement, where he was pronounced dead.

An investigation by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that SpaceX had failed to protect LeBlanc from clear danger, as employees did not have convenient access to “tethers” or any process or supervision to the transportation of cargo.

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

Current and former employees say the lax safety culture is partly due to Elon Musk’s obsession with going to Mars.
Since 2014 there have been at least 600 injuries among SpaceX workers, Reuters reported, many of which have been labeled serious, including nine head injuries.

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

“The company justifies leaving out anything that could hinder the achievement of that goal, including worker safety.”

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

Former US Marine Lonnie LeBlanc died after a gust of wind knocked him off a truck while transporting foam to another SpaceX facility.
During some visits, Musk is said to have played with a novelty flamethrower, while his aides found it hilarious.

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 was reportedly too close to a valve and when the pressure increased, it fired a shield from the valve, hitting him, causing a skull fracture and head trauma, forcing Cabada to end up in a coma.

SpaceX was fined two times totaling $18,475 for safety violations that led to Cabada’s injuries.

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

“I once walked out 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 with helmets started yelling at me to get back in.”

Another aspect of safety that the company allegedly overlooks is the number of hours an employee works per week, as employees were working “exhausting 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 attempt to speed up work while cutting costs, the company manufactured rocket parts inside tents near a Gulf of Mexico beach, with workers welding at temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

Workers fix a portion of a fence at SpaceX Starbase on August 19, 2023.

When the weather worsened, the company closed the tents, cutting off important ventilation needed for safe welding practices.

“We could see the clouds of dust filling the shop,” recalled one welder, Phillip Fruge. “Everyone was just breathing it, day after day.”

The Post has contacted SpaceX for comment.

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