US lawmakers urge scrutiny of SpaceX worker injuries after Reuters report

SpaceX’s Starship rocket launches from Starbase during its second test flight in Boca Chica, Texas, on November 18, 2023.Photograph: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

By Marisa Taylor and Joey Rouletter,
Published by Reuters, 18 November 2023

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Three U.S. lawmakers are calling for greater scrutiny of worker safety at Elon Musk’s SpaceX following a Reuters investigation that documented hundreds of injuries at the rocket company’s U.S. manufacturing and launch sites.

The Nov. 10 Reuters report detailed at least 600 previously unreported workplace injuries since 2014 at SpaceX including crushed limbs, amputations, head injuries and one death. The Reuters report found that injury rates at three major SpaceX industrial facilities in Texas and California far exceeded the average for the space industry.

Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, said the report’s findings were “deeply concerning and must be taken very seriously.”

The science panel oversees NASA’s budget and the activities of the agency’s contractors.

Democratic Representative Mark Takano of California called the report “deeply troubling.” Takano is a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which oversees worker-safety matters.

“These horrific and frequent violations at SpaceX are unacceptable,” Takano added. “Accountability for those harmed is overdue, particularly in light of the federal government’s partnership with the company.”

The U.S. space agency NASA has paid SpaceX, whose headquarters are in Hawthorne, California, $11.8 billion to date as a private space contractor.

Democratic Representative Donald Norcross of New Jersey, also a member of the education and workforce committee, called the findings “alarming and certainly a cause for concern.”

“It’s clear that we need to take a closer look and further investigate the facts,” added Norcross, who has pursued inquiries into safety issues at Amazon Inc warehouses, among other employers.

The House is controlled by Republicans.

SpaceX did not respond to Reuters questions about the injuries or the remarks by the lawmakers.

NASA has not commented on the company’s safety record, but told Reuters it has the option of enforcing contract provisions that require SpaceX to “have a robust and effective safety program and culture.”

Lori Garver, a former NASA deputy administrator who oversaw the early years of the agency’s relationship with SpaceX, said the high worker injury rates at SpaceX facilities should be examined by NASA to determine the causes.

“It should be a wake-up call to NASA,” added Garver, who called on the agency to “dig into” the issue and “make it better.”

“They shouldn’t have rates higher than other companies,” Garver said. “That is a problem.”

SpaceX’s next-generation spacecraft Starship, developed to carry astronauts to the moon and beyond, was set for blastoff on Saturday for a repeat test launch from south Texas, seven months after its first attempt to reach space ended with an explosion.

Editing by Will Dunham

See: Original Article