Under state law, the Mine Safety and Training Division is charged with the
responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of Illinois coal miners. To
accomplish this task, the division employs state mine inspectors to scrutinize
the work procedures, individual work habits and physical systems at the state's
underground and surface coal mines.
Since the 1870s safety inspections have been conducted at Illinois coal mines.
As the coal industry grew, so did concern about safe working conditions. The
health and safety of Illinois coal miners became the number-one priority of
state officials charged with regulating the coal industry. This priority has
been reinforced as the state has experienced on several occasions major mine
disasters. The 1909 Cherry Mine fire, the 1947 Centralia #5 Mine dust explosions
and the 1951 Orient #2 gas explosion are three disasters that impacted the inspection
program by strengthening the state's inspection powers.
Today, the Coal Mining Act stipulates that state mine inspectors must conduct
inspections at least once a month at every coal mine in the state. These inspections,
which require several hours to complete, involve a routine inspection including
a review of the mine examiner's books for any conditions that may require immediate
action. At underground mining operations, the inspector visits the face area,
where tests are conducted on the adequacy and quality of the air supply and
samples are obtained for analysis at the analytical laboratory. Finally, the
inspector monitors miners work habits to ensure compliance with the Illinois
Coal Mine Safety Act.