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Aggregate industry celebrates no deaths for first time in Illinois history    Send a link to a friend

[JAN. 18, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced Jan. 14 that for the first time in the history of modern-day coal and aggregate industry, there were no deaths in Illinois coal mines or rock quarries in 2004. Fatality statistics have been kept since 1882. Department of Natural Resource safety experts credit a new strategy, coupled with strong commitment within the industry to regulation compliance, for the outstanding safety record.

"There were four lives lost in the industry in 2003," said Mike Woods, Illinois Mine Safety and Training Division director with the Department of Natural Resources. "A year ago, we at DNR committed ourselves to finding a way to do more to protect the men and women in the industry."

The announcement of the safety success record was made more than 300 feet below ground at an Illinois coal mine. It was made in that location to underscore the strategy that proved successful for the Department of Natural Resources in improving safety. In past years, mine safety classes were taught in a classroom. But in 2003, rather than teach workers safety in a classroom setting, many training programs moved into the mines and quarries. Mine safety inspectors and trainers went to the job site to talk with and observe workers on each shift, around the clock, about accident prevention. This supplemented an aggressive DNR safety campaign, Next Step to Zero, which began in August of 2001.

"When you’re in a coal mine or working in a quarry, conditions can change from one minute to the next," said Woods. "An important aspect of safety is for the men and women on the job to understand accident prevention at the gut level, so that their response to danger is instinctive and instantaneous."

Additionally, the Illinois Department of Mines and Minerals emphasis on compliance has led to a higher grade of safety. Owners of mines adhere to strict safety guidelines, set forth in the Illinois Coal Mining Act. In the aggregate industry, the DNR regulates explosives usage and storage.

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"Our goal when we find non-compliance on a job site is to see the situation rectified," said Mike Falter, Illinois Department of Natural Resources supervisor of operations. "The companies know that the reason we are there is to keep their workers safe. Because safety is part of the equation of success in this industry, our inspectors have a really good relationship with corporate management."

Illinois mining and aggregate industry statistics

  • In 2003, in Illinois, three people died in coal mines, one in the aggregate industry.
  • Three other years have been fatality-free in the coal industry: 1981, 1998 and 2002. There were deaths in the aggregate industry during those years.
  • 8,000 Illinoisans are employed in the coal and aggregate industries.
  • Coal industry payroll: $160,797,000 in 2003 in Illinois
  • 33.5 million tons of coal were mined statewide in Illinois in 2004.
  • 17 coal mines
  • 400 aggregate industry operations (majority: limestone, sand, gravel, peat, silica)

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources news release]

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