SpaceX is often talked about, generally well, other times not. When former employees speak out, particularly on working conditions within the group, criticism rains down. The company of Elon Musk, symbol of the success of recent years, would not therefore be a perfect world?
For its launch, the American information site Semafor published an investigation into a news item at SpaceX. Last January an engineer was seriously injured during a routine check. Francisco Cadaba was working around a Raptor engine, SpaceX’s most powerful engine, when a pressurized waltz exploded.
A dramatic and preventable workplace accident
The accident plunged the engineer into a coma. Although his condition is improving, he still cannot move, communicate, or even feed himself. He is still under medical care and may remain so for years. Found responsible for the accident, SpaceX was fined $18,475 for two violations of safety standards.
But the article by Reed Albergotti, a former Washington Post journalist, goes further. According to the testimonies he has collected, no public statement has been made by SpaceX on the subject. Worse still, internal employees were not kept informed of Cadaba’s condition.
Former executives have also explained that no compensation had been paid by SpaceX since the accident to the family of the engineer. The latter survives for the moment thanks to the donations of her colleagues.
For the moment OSHA, the administration in charge of compliance with safety standards, is conducting its investigation into the circumstances of the accident. Depending on the results of the latter, the entire SpaceX model could be reviewed. Big fan of the idea “move fast until you fail” Elon Musk will have to better consider the human impact of his “failures” in the future.
If this idea of accelerated development is very popular in Silicon Valley, it reaches its limits when companies employ hundreds of people. The working conditions are very dangerous, especially at SpaceX, and this requires, in fact, the greatest caution.
A problem that affects other space companies
In his article, Albergotti interviews Preston Wood, senior director of security for Relativity Space, another space company like SpaceX. He explains that safety rules and working conditions are light years away from American standards.
“We have flammable liquids on site in bulk. We have cryogens, high pressure gases, inert gases that can create oxygen deficient atmospheres. These products are very dangerous. » Despite the many warnings given by former employees, the American states have not yet legislated more severely on non-compliance with its security standards.
OSHA investigations are rare and usually result in large fines. But this is not enough to change mentalities and working methods. 10 months after the Cadaba accident, sources close to SpaceX assure that such a tragedy could occur “at any time”.