The individual Soldier is the single most important element in the performance of our Army. Unfortunately, history is replete with examples of weapon systems and other materiel that were developed without consideration of their impact on the Soldier’s health and performance. Although military duty is inherently hazardous, Soldiers in combat should not be placed at a disadvantage or at unusual risk because their hardware is deficient or information is lacking regarding the health hazards associated with their equipment. Neither should Soldiers be exposed unnecessarily to health hazards during training, even though the training must be realistic to achieve a high degree of operational readiness. The Army Medical Department’s (AMEDD) mission – to conserve the fighting strength – includes reducing the risks to Soldier’s health that are posed by their own materiel. The AMEDD must ensure that Soldiers do not suffer serious adverse health effects as a result of operating their materiel systems, and that the equipment itself does not prevent them from performing at maximum efficiency.
By 1983, Department of Defense Directive 5000.1 instructed all uniformed services to consider health hazard assessment as an integral part of their materiel acquisition process. Army Regulation 40-10, which formally established the US Army Health Hazard Assessment (HHA) Program, was published in October of that year. When properly executed and integrated into the Army’s Acquisition Process, the HHA Program not only prevents injuries and job-related illness, but it also enhances the Soldier’s ability to accomplish his or her mission.
The HHA process applies biomedical knowledge and principles to document and quantitatively determine the risks that the materiel itself poses to the health and effectiveness of the personnel who test, use, or maintain US Army equipment. The primary objective of the HHA Program is to identify, assess, and eliminate or control health hazards associated with weapons platforms, munitions, equipment, clothing, training devices, and other materiel systems. Specific HHA Program objectives include:
Preserve and protect the health of individual Soldiers,
Reduce degradation of Soldier performance and enhance system effectiveness,
Design out health hazards to eliminate the need for health hazard based retrofits,
Reduce readiness deficiencies attributable to health hazards thereby reducing training or operational restrictions, and
Reduce personnel compensation claims by eliminating or reducing injury or illness caused by health hazards associated with the use and maintenance of Army systems.
Potential health hazards are identified and assessed according to hazard severity and hazard probability. This evaluation of hazard severity and hazard probability provides decision makers with (a) a formal estimate of the health risks associated with military hardware as it proceeds through the acquisition process, (b) a summary and discussion of potential and real health hazard issues, and (c) recommendations for methods of controlling, mitigating, reducing, or eliminating hazards.
The HHA Program is a primary domain within the overall Army Human Systems Integration (HSI) Program. Careful coordination and integration between HHA Program activities and other Army HSI domains are essential for a cohesive, comprehensive, and efficient Army Acquisition Process. The Army HSI joint working groups integrate the HHA report throughout all Army HSI domains. In addition, the US Army’s Systems Acquisition Review Council verifies that the Office of the Surgeon General has completed the HHA report, and that appropriate action is taken by the materiel developer or the combat developer to resolve health hazard issues.