Safety & Product LeadershipFour members of AEM's Safety & Product Leadership Department – Michael Pankonin, John Wagner, William "Bernie" Bernhard and Nathan Burton -- have announced their plans to retire at the end of the year.

AEM is committed to its Safety & Product Leadership function, and association leadership will be working with department members and stakeholders to manage the transition to ensure AEM continues to provide and offer important services its members are accustomed to receiving.

“Mike, John, Bernie and Nate have spent their entire careers in off-road equipment, and each has made unique and lasting contributions for the betterment of the industry,” said AEM Senior Vice President of Ag Services Curt Blades, who oversees the S&PL department and its activities. “Our members have all benefited from their service to the mission of the Safety & Product Leadership team, and we thank them for their leadership.”

"Do it once, do it right, do it globally" is the department's motto. Its staff is tasked with working with various industry and product groups to address issues related to safety and compliance, as well as relevant topical issues that are important to both the association’s members and equipment manufacturers. In addition, the department has developed a number of end user resources for AEM members to distribute to their customers in an effort to advocate for the safe and proper use of equipment.

Michael Pankonin

Pankonin joined AEM in 2007 as the association's assistant director of AEM's Safety and Technical group, before being promoted to senior director of the group in 2009. In addition to overseeing AEM's alliances with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Pankonin has led engine emissions work and California Air Resources Board (CARB) activities. He has also staffed a number of AEM's product groups, including forestry, earthmoving and mining, as well as the OECD U.S. Coordinating Committee for the Tractor Test codes and the Safety & Product Leadership Council. He currently leads AEM's Safety & Product Leadership Department, and he manages many ad hoc activities on behalf of the association.

John Wagner

Wagner joined AEM in 2012, following years spent working in the ag and construction industries. During his tenure he has grown the chemical management and market access program, as well as helped form the AEM Sustainability Council among many other committees he has facilitated over the last several years. Recently, Wagner led the AEM/EPA SNAP Application process certifying 1234YF as an alternative refrigerant for AEM member industries and has been part of an internal task force focusing on the PIP 3:1 regulatory work. Prior to joining AEM, Wagner worked for International Harvester, JI Case, and CNH Industrial, where he held positions of increasing responsibility, including stints in test engineering, training and brand communications.

William “Bernie” Bernhard

Bernhard joined AEM in 2013 as a technical and safety services manager, offering him the opportunity work with industry manufacturers on regulations focusing on safety, meeting the needs of their customers and technical issues. Bernhard has staffed the Construction Equipment Standards & Regulations Committee, Crane Technical Committees, and the Underground Equipment Manufacturers Council. Bernhard gained a wealth of industry experience learning the off-road retail business upon joining Case Power & Equipment’s retail stores after college. He then went on to work with CNH Industrial before managing a Birkey’s dealership prior to his tenure with AEM.

Nathan Burton

Burton joined AEM in 2013 after 10 years spent as a member firm representative engaged with the association. As one of AEM’s three technical and safety services managers, Burton was tasked with facilitating product groups focused on forestry, aggregate/asphalt, concrete and other construction industry product types. Burton has also been the staff lead for the highly successful Product Safety and Compliance/Product Liability Seminars and oversaw the seminar’s growth to over 300 participants in 2019.

“Each of these individuals have worked to consistently provide AEM members with quality service, expertise and support, and we at AEM wish them nothing but the best in their retirement,” said Blades.

For more information on AEM’s Safety & Product Leadership Department, contact AEM’s Curt Blades at

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