Saving Sight

Eye protection takes so little effort – yet it prevents disastrous outcomes

Imagine the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen. For me it might be my wife holding our first child, Sonya, hours after she was born. Or maybe the vista over Hidden Lake at Glacier National Park.

Bring your favorite picture up in memory. Now imagine never being able to see such a thing again. That could be the result of failing to take the proper precautions on the job to protect your vision.

The odds of something happening to your eyes may be small, but the consequences are great, and since the precautions are simple, there’s no good reason to avoid taking them. Of course, as an owner or manager, you’ll want to help protect your employees’ vision, too.


Nothing corny

To that end, have you heard of the Wise Owl Program? It’s a safety recognition program from Prevent Blindness America that promotes the consistent use of protective eyewear in workplaces.

Developed more than 50 years ago in response to a growing number of eye-related injuries on the job, Wise Owl has evolved to become one of the most recognized eye safety programs in the United States.

All right, maybe it sounds like just another corny safety campaign. But consider that each day, more than 2,000 workers suffer eye injuries, many serious. And that in its history, Wise Owl has recognized more than 86,000 people for having saved their sight by wearing approved protective eyewear.

Today, Wise Owl has more than 600 corporate, municipal and technical school chapters that recognize the importance of a proactive approach to preventing workplace eye injuries. Prevent Blindness reports that protective eyewear can head off some 90 percent of workplace eye injuries.


Getting involved

Wise Owl encourages chapters to promote eye safety by sharing education materials with employees and by recognizing people whose vision is saved by protective eyewear. Members pay an annual membership fee and receive an initial packet of informational brochures, fact sheets and safety posters, a quiz on workplace eye safety, and the Prevent Blindness quarterly newsletter.

Members also get a 10 percent discount on all Wise Owl educational materials, a case study book detailing individual members’ eye safety stories, and a chapter on membership certificate.

In addition, the kit also includes incident reports that business owners can submit to Prevent Blindness detailing how eye protection saved a person from injury. Upon receiving this report, the organization will send a certificate that a supervisor can present to the employee for being smart about eye safety.


Case in point

Have you ever had an eye saved by safety glasses or some other eyewear? Or have you seen someone else saved? I was working in a chemistry lab during my sophomore year of college when I heard a noise of breaking glass.

A woman student at the next bench had dropped and broken a flask of iodine solution, which had splashed up into her face – and onto the safety goggles she was wearing. Recognizing a teachable moment, the professor called everyone to attention, saying, “Here’s a lesson for all of you. We would have had a case of eye surgery right here had these glasses not been on.”

I hadn’t been wearing mine. You can bet I wore them from that moment forward.

Recognizing employees is a great way to stress the importance of protective eyewear and to promote a culture of safety in the workplace. For more information on the Wise Owl program, visit


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