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Driver riding rear end of loaded car. Majestic Mine. Peabody Coal Company. Old DuQuoin, Illinois 1936

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.