During his frequent visits to the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, Texas, Musk would play around with a novelty flamethrower, while discouraging workers from wearing safety vests.
Certain machines typically made in industrial safety yellow, were painted black or blue while yellow-safety tape was replaced with red.
The company has also failed to cordon off areas of danger, as workers often walk too close to engine-testing and rocket-building facilities, the investigation revealed.
Since 2014 there have been at least 600 injuries to SpaceX workers, Reuters reported, with many of the injuries being labeled as serious including nine head injuries.
One 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 didn’t have straps to secure it.
Former Marine Lonnie LeBlanc decided to use his weight to hold down the foam by sitting on top it in the back of a truck’s trailer, but a gust of wind knocked him off, sending him headfirst into the pavement, where he was pronounced dead.
An investigation by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found SpaceX had failed to protect LeBlanc from a clear hazard, as the employees had no convenient access to “tie-downs” and no process or oversight for transporting the cargo.
The relaxed safety culture comes as Musk is gearing up to land his space crafts on Mars to save the human race.
“Elon’s concept that SpaceX is on this mission to go to Mars as fast as possible and save humanity permeates every part of the company,” Tom Moline, a former SpaceX senior avionics engineer said.
“The company justifies casting aside anything that could stand in the way of accomplishing 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.
In another incident that took place in Jan. 2022, Francisco Cabada was “conducting a routine pressure valve test” on an engine when the pressure rose faster than expected.
Cabada was reportedly standing too close to a valve and when the pressure increased and shot a shield off the valve, striking him, causing a skull fracture and head trauma and forcing Cabada wound up in a coma.
SpaceX was handed two fines totaling $18,475 for safety violations that led to Cabada’s injuries.
“One time I walked out the door of my building, and there was a giant crane there,” said Paige Holland-Thielen, a former operations and automation engineer in Hawthorne. “A bunch of people in hard hats started screaming at me to get back inside.”
Another aspect of safety allegedly overlooked by the company is the amount of hours an employee works a week as employees worked “grueling hours trying to meet Musk’s deadlines.”
At points, employees slept overnight at the facility to work upwards of 80 hours a week, the news outlets 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 in temperatures over 100 degrees.
When weather grew bad, the company would closed the tents, cutting off important ventilation needed for safe welding practices.
“We could see the clouds of the dust filling the tent,” one welder, Phillip Fruge, recalled. “Everyone was just breathing it in, day after day.”