SpaceX worker says "safety can get overlooked."

Out on a Limb

Labor inspectors have fined Elon Musk's SpaceX for $3,600 after a worker suffered a "near amputation" of a foot at the company's Redmond, Washington site, Reuters reports, which adds to the hundreds of reported injuries and safety violations under SpaceX's belt.

Other alarming incidents that have happened at the Elon Musk-led rocket maker include one death and an injured worker who remains in a coma after his skull was fractured. All told, SpaceX has been slapped with $50,836 in safety violation fines over the last several years, in addition to a pending lawsuit from the family of the comatose worker.

The latest fine came as a result of Washington state labor inspectors visiting the Redmond facility in December after receiving complaints about lax safety standards, according to Reuters.

The worker who almost got their limb severed was injured when a heavy "roll of material" fell on their foot. In damning testimony obtained by Reuters, the worker told inspectors that the material "had been deliberately set up incorrectly for the purpose of increasing the production rate during the material loading phase."

Another worker is recorded as saying that "safety can get overlooked" because Musk is so intent on meeting its ambitious goals in space that workplace safety is often not considered.

Space Opera

The history of space exploration is littered with gruesome tales and tragedies, from the fiery death of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov who plunged to Earth in 1967 to the 1986 Challenger explosion that traumatized school children who watched it happen live.

It sometimes appears that Musk's SpaceX is following the same pattern. But for a commercial enterprise that depends on the largess of the federal government — which has given Musk billions for rockets and other equipment — you'd think SpaceX would do a better job of complying with government safety standards.

And these fines are so piddling small that there's no financial incentive to increase safety at SpaceX.

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