Injury Rates at SpaceX Soar Above Industry Norms

Injury Rates at SpaceX Soar Above Industry Norms

SpaceX, the world leader in rocket launches, is increasingly coming under scrutiny for its workplace practices. A recent safety review performed by Reuters highlights an upsetting trend at the aerospace company. For the second year in a row, injury rates at SpaceX far exceed the industry average. This is according to a Reuters review of 2023 safety data that the company filed to U.S. regulators, specifically the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Discouragingly, the injury rate worsened at SpaceX compared to the previous year.

A previous Reuters investigation found that the approximately 600 reported injuries in 2022 included crushed limbs, cuts, burns, eye injuries, electrocutions, amputations, and serious head injuries, according to the news outlet, which noted that data from prior years are either incomplete or non-existent.

The situation doesn’t appear to be improving. In 2023, the SpaceX facility in Brownsville, Texas, for example, reported an injury rate of 5.9 per 100 workers, a notable increase from 4.8 in 2022. Comparatively, the industry average remains significantly lower at 0.8 injuries per 100 workers, according to figures provided by Reuters.

The company’s rocket recovery teams appear to be taking the brunt, with Pacific coast workers experiencing an injury rate of 7.6 per 100 workers—more than nine times the industry average. The Atlantic team fared a bit better, enduring 3.5 injuries per 100 workers.

SpaceX is the only company currently in the business of recovering incoming boosters from droneships. Accordingly, its teams are having to deal with unique and sometimes extreme challenges. But that’s no excuse for allowing these injuries to occur, and it’s a possible sign that the company is launching too many rockets too quickly—or a corporate culture that doesn’t value safety.

SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment on these latest figures and what, if anything, the company is doing to lower injury rates.


Experts argue that the high injury rates point to deeper systemic issues. David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University, suggested to Reuters that such high injury rates could indicate poor production quality, a significant concern for commercial partners and NASA, which contracts billions of dollars to SpaceX.

SpaceX has consistently refuted claims that it neglects the safety of its workers. In a March tweet, COO Gwynne Shotwell wrote: “Astronaut and personnel safety is SpaceX’s highest priority, which is why I had to personally test the new slide,” in reference to a new emergency chute installed at a crew tower in Florida. She ended her tweet with a winky face emoji.

Safety is not the only issue at SpaceX; the company has also been accused of hiring discrimination and paying women and minorities less than their white male counterparts. At least for now, SpaceX is NASA’s most important commercial partner and a cornerstone of the U.S. space sector, making it all the more critical that the company resolve these ongoing workplace problems.

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