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When it comes to safety, Komatsu Equipment employees stay on TRACK.
TRACK is an acronym for the process they take upon arrival at a job site: think through the task, recognize the hazard, assess the risks, control the hazards, and keep safety first.

“We have a zero-harm, keep-everyone-safe mentality,” said Elko Komatsu Marketing Manager Melanie Carroll.

The company recently received Safety Health Awareness Recognition Program certification from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Komatsu is the first company in Elko and northeastern Nevada to become SHARP certified.

Komatsu Equipment in Elko offers new, used and rental equipment for customers in mining, construction and utility businesses. It also services all makes and models of equipment.

“Safety is a value for us,” said Safety Director Robert Weston. “... Safety doesn’t end at the end of the day.”
Komatsu employees are encouraged to bring safety knowledge home to influence the next generation.

The company’s Zero Harm program is another step it’s taken to stay on top.

“The philosophy of Zero Harm is watching out for everybody, not just yourself,” Carroll explained.

Komatsu has been working toward SHARP certification for about one-and-a-half years, Weston said. The company requested OSHA to have a safety and health survey done.

“It really is the company that asked us to come out and do it,” said Steve George, administrator of the Nevada Division of Industrial Relations, during a presentation ceremony Wednesday.

The audit, completed by the division’s Safety Consultation and Training section, identified potential risks which Komatsu had to address within a certain amount of time.

Weston said the company’s commitment to safety was clear.

“Some of the things that they identified weren’t very cheap (to fix),” he said.

Although SHARP has been around for some time, it was recently updated and some members are even being asked to leave the program because they don’t meet the new standards, Weston said. There are 38 SHARP companies in Nevada.

“Nevada is probably one of the most stringent programs to qualify,” he said.

Branch manager Glenn Beardsley has been with the company for five months, and was pleased with the certification.

“Safety is such a big part of our culture,” Beardsley said. “... Let’s make sure we get even better as we move forward.”

Project Manager Steve Snyder said Komatsu employees practice using TRACK when they go onto a site by having what’s called “safety interactions.”

“We talk to the employees where we go about what they’re doing,” Snyder said.

Using special booklets provided to them, Komatsu employees can fill out a TRACK form and provide tips for better or alternative safety procedures.

“It’s a tool to encourage the positives,” said Service Manager Sterling Skinner. “... You want to address potential hazards, not catch somebody doing something wrong.”

The goal is for Komatsu employees to get a couple of safety interactions in a month. The TRACK program also includes a Zero Harm class.

“It’s one more tool to get everyone thinking ‘safety’” Skinner said.

Richard Bochman, safety and health consultant with the Safety Consultation and Training Section, said he has seen a lot of progress at Komatsu throughout the years. Bochman has been present for three surveys at the local branch.

Komatsu Equipment came to Elko in the late ‘90s when it purchased Pioneer Equipment. Its corporate office is located in Salt Lake City and is owned by Komatsu America, located in Chicago. Komatsu America is owned by Kamatsu in Japan, but all local products are American-made, Carroll said.

Besides Komatsu equipment, the Elko branch also carries seven additional full lines, including equipment for forestry, paving, mining and more.

“Most of our business is mining,” Carroll said.

However, with the slowdown in the industry, Komatsu has turned to other sources.

“We’ve really done well with the rental market, especially with mining being down,” Carroll said.

Komatsu has 750 pieces of equipment available for renting or rent-to-own. Rentals are used by mining companies, contractors and more. The company has everything from excavators, loaders and electrical and mechanical haul trucks to forklifts. The Robinson Mine in Ely is currently renting a loader for a year.

Carroll said Komatsu also stays competitive because its electric drive trucks get better mileage than the competition.

The company also does repairs and replacements. Skinner said the company no longer repairs pumps for haul trucks because it is less expensive to buy new ones.

“Some things you just can’t repair cheap enough,” he said.

Komatsu is increasing its efficiency with the purchase of a new Kenworth lube truck.

“We haven’t had it here in Elko,” said Parts Manager Todd Haslem.

The truck will contain hundreds of gallons of engine oil, transmission oil, antifreeze and more that can be pumped out quickly. Employees previously had to carry those in by hand.