The construction industry is an important part of West Virginias economy, employing more than 51,000 workers, but it sometimes comes with a high price tag. The industry is plagued with one of the highest rates of injuries and fatalities in the nation.

With proper safety training, Chandler Swope, president of Swope Construction Co. in Bluefield, hopes to change that.

Swope has committed $30,000 over the next two years for the West Virginia University Safety and Health Extension program to create the West Virginia Safety Alliancemodeled after the Associated General Contractors of Virginia Safety Alliance. Under this model, companies work with one another to improve their safety programs.

Working together, companies will be able to improve their safety performance by sharing ideas, experiences and resources. WVU Safety and Health Extension will facilitate the program.

The West Virginia Safety Alliance will bring all types and sizes of contractors together to exchange best safety practices and suggest ways that smaller companies can efficiently and effectively develop safety programs.

Within the first two years, the program will facilitate the creation of three safety alliances and establish relationships with key contractors. These regional alliancesin North Central West Virginia, the Eastern Panhandle and the Kanawha Valleywill hold quarterly meetings, bringing contractors and their employees together to share the safety message.

The program can come none too soon, Swope said. He started his company in 1984 and said he isrighteousabout offering quality safety programs to state contractors and their employees.

Its my job to send every one of my employees home alive every single night with all of their fingers and toes,he said.The alternative is not acceptable.

Mark Fullen, WVU Safety and Health Extension director and professor, said,Were excited about the opportunities this program creates for sharing best safety practices and having a real impact on construction safety throughout West Virginia.

As a part of WVU Extension Service since 1989, WVU Safety and Health Extensions public-service mission seeks to decrease occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities among West Virginia workers.

The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, a private, nonprofit corporation that generates and provides support for WVU .