Kentucky Historical Society


Moments in Kentucky
Legislative History

33. Coal Mine Safety (1884)

The General Assembly turned its attention to the issue of coal-mine safety with the passage of "an act to provide for and regulate the ventilation of coal mines in this State and for the better protection of miners" which was approved May 10, 1884. The governor was empowered to appoint an inspector of mines for a four-year term. The inspector should have a good knowledge of chemistry, geology, and mineralogy as well as a practical knowledge "of the different systems of working and ventilating coal mines." He should also know "the nature of the noxious and poisonous gases" and have a practical knowledge of mining and engineering. His duty would be to "visit and inspect, as often as may be necessary, all the coal mines in actual operation in Kentucky."

The act also laid out the obligations of mine operators to maintain adequate ventilation, safe means of entrance and exit, and generally to maintain the mines "in a safe and wholesome condition." Operators were subject to fines of fifty dollars a day if found in violation of these standards. They were also required to maintain "an accurate map or plan" (on a scale not less than one hundred feet to an inch) of all their working mines to be given to the inspector of mines. The inspector, for his part, was to keep a record of all inspections and furnish certified copies to the "Commonwealth's Attorney of the district in which the mine is situate" which "shall be admissible in evidence in any court in this Commonwealth."

Canary cage

Canary cage from a coal mine, ca. 1900. Miners observed the health of canaries to signal the presence of noxious gases before more precise measuring instruments were developed. Kentucky Historical Society Collections.

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