Diary of a reformed KTI

Jan. 1, 2000

Safety should be your top priority

Kent Darnell is the hands-on training business unit leader at Womack Machine Supply ( He’s also a reformed KTI, his own TLA (three-letter acronym) for a knob-turning idiot. Darnell spoke about safety in November at the Fluid Power Systems Conference in Rosemont, Illinois.

“KTIs aren't just screwing in knobs,” he explained. “They're also subject to oil-injection injuries. When you have an oil leak, it can come out of there as high as 600 ft/sec (409 mph); the velocity of a .38 Special is 600 ft/sec. That's the speed of a bullet. There's a danger of injecting hyrdraulic oil into the skin from a hose leak. Oil injection injury looks like a small puncture wound. There may be a little swelling. If not treated immediately, the mechanical and chemical factors infecting the skins tissue may lead to compartment syndrome and subsequently to fibrosis, adhesions, necrosis, secondary contractures and ulcerations. The possibility of systemic intoxication, acute renal failure, and air embolism can occur in extreme cases. Gangrene may set in and lead to amputation.”

Luckily, Darnell’s presentation took place after breakfast and well before lunch, so the gruesome pictures he shared to demonstrate the gravity and severity of his point weren’t responsible for any wasted meals.

Why are we reluctant to be safe? “We don't like change,” said Darnell. “We don't like to be told what to do. We have work-related injuries in safe factories because people don't think. We have KTIs. Safety starts with us. It should be our No. 1 priority. The biggest reason why safety is our No. 1 priority is because of our families. We want to come home to Mom and the kids. We want to be coming home to our husbands and kids. We have to be safe, and we have to make safety our No. 1 priority to do that.”

It's not just safety training, explained Darnell. “They've got to know how the system works. They have to have the experience. But training is where you start.”

Darnell started his career out in west Texas. “I've been in the fluid power industry for 26 years — 20 years in outside sales and 6 years as a trainer/instructor,” he said. “I put hydraulics motors and pumps on just about anything that'd move. If it has mill on the back of it, I've probably been in there. I spent a lot of time in industrial hydraulics.”

He also reminisced when his dad bought home a brand-new 1965 Mustang. “When I got older, I asked him about the weird seatbelts in the back,” Darnell said. “He said they were there because they were dealer add-ons. Seatbelts were invented in 19th century and first installed as standard equipment in 1955 by Volvo. Before 1964, there were 44 fatality accidents per 100,000 registered cars. In the 1970s, state laws required seatbelts to be in cars. In the 1980s, state laws require people to wear seatbelts. By 2011, there were 10.39 fatality accidents per 100,000 registered cars. Part of the reason why we have 10.39 accidents is because of seatbelts and airbags.”

Safety is the state of being certain that adverse effects will not be caused by some agent under defined conditions, explained Darnell. “Safe is secure from risk,” he said. “Risk is a venture undertaken without regard to possible loss or injury. We have a lot of different organizations — ANSI, ISO, NFPA, OSHA — that define what safe is. Why are we reluctant to be safe? We know about OSHA. We tremble when OSHA comes into our plants.”

Darnell reminded that OSHA offers courtesy inspections with no fines. “For the Voluntary Protection Program, an OSHA cooperative program, the people who participate have to meet certain criteria to participate,” he said. “I had a steel mill customer that participated. They were cleaning to make sure everything was ready when OSHA came. When you drove onto this customer's campus, you drove past the guard shack and they had a big sign that said how many days since a work-related injury. In 2011, there were 3 million work-related injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4,693 fatal work injuries in 2011. Over the last 20 years that number has dropped by 1,500, which is great. The bad part about that number is there were 4,693 dads, mothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins that didn't go home to their families. These people died in 2011 because they weren't safe.”

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