BENTON- A measure to bring safer conditions to coal mines in Illinois was signed into law Friday.
The legislation, Senate Bill 2813, was an initiative of State Senator Gary Forby, D-Benton. State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, was the primary House sponsor of the bill. Starting in the General Assembly with its opening in February, the bill passed muster in both the House and Senate before Gov. Bruce Rauner signed it into legislation on Friday.
Forby said that the measure is aimed at making Illinois a more competitive market for the coal industry by updating safety regulations.
"Keeping workers safe on the job is one of the most important things we can do," Forby said in a press release from his office on Friday. "I have been around the coal industry my whole life and know how dangerous coal mines can be. If we want to keep the coal industry alive in Southern Illinois, we need to make sure our mines are safe."
The bill received bipartisan support from House and Senate members in southern Illinois such as state representative Democrats Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg and Jerry Costello II of Smithton, and Republicans state Rep. Terri Bryant of Anna and state Sen. David Luechtefeld of Okawville.
The release stated that the bill amends the Coal Mining Act by adjusting regulations on mine safety and health to bring Illinois into parity with federal regulations set by the Mine Safety Act and Health Administration.
The law contains a number of updates to the safety regulations, Forby's office notes, including:
Requires coal mine examination to take place within three hours prior to the beginning of a shift
If examiner finds more than one percent methane in the air, the examiner would be required to examine each seal before workers are allowed in the mine
Requires examination only in areas where a person is scheduled to work or travel under ground
Requires an examiner to inspect escape ways each day
Allows examiner to file reports by transmitting the results of the examination to the surface to store them in a computer
Allows an examiner to use a multi-gas detector rather than a flame safety lamp to test for gasses
Allows for telephone service or equivalent two-way communications, including text messages to be used to allow miners who become trapped inside a mine to better communicate their status to emergency services.
The bill goes into effect on Jan. 1.