The Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program is the culmination of over 75 years of work to identify risks that threaten visual function and to implement reasonable controls, educate employees and encourage eye safety compliance.
During World War II, workers with the best vision and eye-hand coordination were often drafted into the armed services. This left the defense industries with workers who may have had amblyopia, poor stereopsis, or other visual anomalies. Because there was some concern that productivity would suffer or that there might be an increase in on-the-job injuries as a consequence of poor vision, Dr. Joseph Tiffin and researchers from Purdue University studied the visual demands required of 4 million workers at various defense plants throughout the United States. Their study eventually led to 10 job vision categories, which later became the 6 industrial vision standards which are still in use in industry today.
Since the Army's initial efforts in occupational vision, there has been gradual and steady progress to improve the program. In 1946, the Army Industrial Hygiene Laboratory, located at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, initiated occupational vision programs at various depots and arsenals located throughout the country. During the 1950's the program was expanded to include 90,000 federal civilian employees working in eye-hazardous areas at 19 Army installations. In the 1960's the Army's Occupational Vision Program was expanded even further to include soldiers working in eye-hazardous areas at all Army installations. However, the watershed year for occupational vision was 1971 when the Occupational Safety and Health Act mandated that employers must supply eye protection for all employees working in eye-hazardous areas (at no cost to the employee). Previously, eye safety was the responsibility of the employee.
The year 1991 brought about significant changes in the Army's Occupational Vision Program, including its name change to the Army Vision Conservation Program. The new program is comprised of three elements: occupational vision, eye safety, and environmental vision. The definition of occupational vision was: "to provide soldiers and civilian workers with the best vision possible to work and recreate safely, productively, efficiently, and comfortably." The goal of eye safety was: "to eliminate eye injuries through the use of training, administrative and engineering controls, and by providing individuals with personal eye protection." In addition, efforts in environmental vision were added and directed towards: "evaluating and providing solutions for environmental problems, such as illumination, ionizing radiation, and non-ionizing radiation, which may impact negatively on visual efficiency and health."
Within the occupational vision element are several components: vision and optical readiness, vision screening and eye examinations, and vision conservation education. For the last fifty plus years, military optometrists have done an excellent job evaluating, examining, and prescribing for the visual needs of their patients -- soldiers, dependents, retirees, and retired dependents. However, Operation Desert Shield/Storm (ODS/S) demonstrated that 23 percent of the troops deploying were not vision ready (i.e. their prescriptions were not current and did not allow them 20/20 vision), and 46 percent of the troops were not optically ready (i.e. the troops did not have the prerequisite 2 pairs of spectacles and/or 1 pair of protective mask inserts) to go to war. This resulted in the military optical laboratories having to fabricate over 1 million pairs of spectacles and/or inserts in support of the deploying troops in a very short period of time. This resulted in the establishment of initiatives of the vision conservation program ensuring that all warfighters are visually and optically ready for deployment at any time.
Several other initiatives have been undertaken by the program over the years including the establishment of an eye injury data collection system designed to survey installations for eye-hazardous operations and optimize eye protection for soldiers and civilian workers. In 1997, the Program was reengineered to focus more on Vision, Optical and Eye Health Readiness the Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness World Wide Web site was constructed which went public in 1998. Also, due to the Tri-Service nature of the Program, it became a stand alone program on 01 October 1997.
Vision Conservation training was divided into two courses initially. The Vision Conservation Officers Course was designed to "indoctrinate optometry officers who serve as Subject Matter Experts for their local Vision Conservation Program." In addition, the Program taught the Vision Conservation Basic Course for Safety, Occupational Health and Industrial Hygiene professions. In 1996, the Tri-Service Vision Conservation Officers Course was established with attendees from all three Services and also the Public Health Service being trained. In the year 2000 the course was revamped into one 40 hour course for all of the professions involved and efforts began to develop a 40-hr exportable vision conservation course for all allied health personnel and safety officers. In 2005, the course was revamped from a 40 hour live course to an 8 hour on-line / 20 hour live course and remained that until 2017 when it was again revamped to an 11 hour course.
1940's Dr. Joseph Tiffin, an industrial psychologist, and his research team evaluated four million workers to establish job vision standards for six major occupational categories.
1946 Army Industrial Hygiene Laboratory (AIHL), located at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, initiated occupational vision programs at various depots and arsenals.
1950's Occupational Vision Program was directed toward 90,000 federal civilian employees at 19 Army installations.
1960 Environmental health activities added to the occupational health mission of AIHL and created the US Army Environmental Hygiene Agency (AEHA).
1971 Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) became law and mandated the employer provide a safe and healthful workplace. This resulted in military provision of eye protection for all employees working in eye-hazardous areas.
1991 Army Vision Conservation Program developed.
1993 Defense Vision Conservation Program developed.
1994 AEHA reengineered into the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM).
1996 Tri-Service Vision Conservation Office (TSVCO) established.
1997 Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program (TSVCRP) established.
1999 DA PAM 40-506, Vision Conservation and Readiness was published.
2009 Select missions from the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM) and the US Army Veterinary Command (VETCOM) are combined into the US Army Public Health Command (Provisional).
2011 The US Army Public Health Command becomes fully operational.
2015 The US Army Public Health Command becomes the US Army Public Health Center.
2016 The Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program becomes the Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Division.
2019 The Directorate reorganizes and the Division converts back to being the Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program.
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