The new law amends the current process for testing miners by the state Office of Mine Safety and Licensing. It updates the 11-panel test, giving the state Mine Safety Review Commission authority to add additional components to the test.

Beshear, a two-term Democrat from western Kentucky, traveled to Pike County, a traditional coal mining county in eastern Kentucky, to sign the legislation. “Providing a safe work environment for our miners, both below and above ground, is one of the most important duties we have as regulators,” he said. “With the implementation of this legislation, we are not only helping miners get home safely to their families every night, but also allowing those with drug or alcohol problems to get treatment. This will help them resume work to provide an income for their families and improve the safety of the workplace for others.”

State Representative Jim Gooch, D-Providence, sponsored the bill, which raced through the Legislature earlier this year with nary a negative vote. H.B. 385 passed the House of Representatives, 98 to 0, February 29, and the Senate, 36 to 0, March 26.

“By making sure that coal miners are not working alongside others impaired by illegal drugs, H.B. 385 will build on our work in 2006 when we became the first state to require coal miners to be certified,” Gooch said. “This law is the next logical step.”

The new law provides a treatment option for those miners reported for the first time, allowing their certificate to be reinstated following an evaluation for substance abuse, the completion of a treatment program, and a clean drug test in lieu of an appeal or revocation.

Officials say prescription drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone are among the drugs most abused in Kentucky mines. However, some miners also have tested positive for illegal drugs like marijuana.