"It can be a dangerous occupation," Smith said. "They need to have somebody else looking out for them."
One Illinois miner died over the two years covered by the audit, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The miner, 30-year-old Chad Meyers, was crushed between a machine and the wall of the Saline County mine operated by a subsidiary of Peabody Energy, according to a preliminary MSHA report.
Three Illinois miners died in 2010, the year before the audit period, according to MSHA.
Data on miners injured wasn't immediately available.
Most Illinois miners work in the coal industry. State production actually increased last year after almost two decades of declines because of pollution concerns over the high sulfur content of the state's coal.