Part 2: Body Mapping

What's hurting you?

  • Substances?  Vapours, liquids, fumes, mists, solvents, dusts?
  • Environments?  Noise, vibration, radiation, dry, wet, hot, cold, ventilation, indoor air quality?
  • Job design?  Control, stress, bullying, ergonomics, work pressure, insecurity, harassment, discrimination, violence?
  • Welfare?  Toilets, facilities, cleanliness?
  • Accidents?  Trips, falls, slips, cuts, scalds, burns, lifting, reaching?
  • Work patterns? Overtime, long hours, piecework, shifts, homework, call centre work, rest breaks, rush jobs?

If everyone at work suddenly developed an apple green-tinged tongue and hair, you'd be fairly certain it was the job that was to blame.   This can happen – if you work in a copper smelter.

For most workers, it's not so easy to work out what how and in what way work affects their health.   Sometimes they think that it's just their own personal problem, and not work-related at all.  Not identifying work-related problems can mean that nothing is done about them, and more workers' health suffers.

How Body Mapping can help:

As Health and Safety Reps, you can use Body Mapping find out "what's hurting members", to collect information about workers' health, such as:

  • diseases
  • illnesses
  • injuries
  • aches and pains
  • stress symptoms
  • fatigue/impairment
  • reproductive problems
  • other related problems

Body Mapping is a way of identifying common patterns of health problems amongst workers in a particular workplace, doing the same or similar job.  (Different groups within a workplace are likely to identify different problems.)  It means that when all the workers doing a particular job pool their information about health problems (past or current) that are unexplained or just might be related to the job, patterns can quickly emerge.  

Not all the identified common health problems may be work-related, but doing the Body Mapping exercise means that these all merit further investigation at the very least.

This information has been developed to help Health and Safety Representatives run one or more Body Mapping sessions with members of their Designated Work Group.

It provides HSRs with some guidance, some ideas on the sorts of things they might want to discuss with their members, what they might do following a Mapping session, and so on.  How they run the session is up to them: it should be easy and fun to do.

The kit is directed to the HSR running Body Mapping sessions.

What you will need:         

  • A Body Map: Two large outlines of the body, labelled 'front' and 'back', on large sheets of paper – these can either be a blow-up of the outlines (download here), or can be drawn free hand (think Gingerbread man!).  The outlines do not have to be anatomically perfect! 
  • Blue Tac (or sticky tape) to stick the Body Map on the wall or a white board
  • Coloured self-sticking dots – or coloured marking pens

Running a Body Mapping Session:

1 – Getting started

It is best to do this exercise with the workers all together in the same place at the same time.  This could be at the workplace during either a special session, or as part of a broader training course or, if more convenient, away from the workplace out of hours.  The exercise can be done at DWG meeting, in the lunch room or anywhere there is room and some privacy.

The group of workers doing the Body Mapping should be workers who do the same or similar work. 

If your designated work group (DWG) is made up of different groups of workers doing different jobs, then you could consider running a Body Mapping session with each of these groups.

If everyone in your DWG does the same sort of work, then they can all be in the same group.  If this means that the group is so large that the workers cannot interact with each other, consider dividing the group so that it is easy to do the exercise.

2 – Explain what Body Mapping is and why you are doing it

Before starting the Body Mapping exercise, you could discuss your role as the OHS rep with your members, and how this exercise "fits in":

  • Your role is to represent the members of your DWG in any matters related to OHS.
  • There are a number of ways that problems in the workplace can be identified, including inspections, accident and incident investigations, monitoring of conditions and keeping tabs on Workers Compensation and sick leave records.
  • Body Mapping is a more direct tool that can help you as their OHS representative identify and document problems in a way that directly involves every single one of them as members of your DWG.
  • Body Mapping is easy to do, fun and done in a way that maintains individual members' privacy.  That is why no names are used – just coloured dots/marks.  The outcome never identifies individuals, and no personal information ever gets discussed outside of the Body Mapping session.
  • Body Mapping helps you as the OHS rep build a case for action.  It helps you get a real overview of health and safety conditions in the workplace.

3 – The actual mapping

  • Explain that we are using the Body Map to record health problems.
  • Hand out a bunch of coloured dot stickers to each participant.  Explain to them that each colour represents a different problem.  We suggest:
    • red - aches and pains
    • blue - cuts and bruises
    • green - illnesses
    • black - anything else (eg stress, fatigue, etc)
  • Tell them they can all come up together and put the sticky dots on any areas of the body they believe are affected by their work.  These can be for problems they are experiencing now, or have experienced since they have been working.
  • If they can't show their problems with dots (eg a generalised pain or a skin rash over a large part of the body) they can use a coloured marker to show this.   Problems such as stress, sleeping difficulties, anxiety or fatigue can be put in a cloud above the head.
  • Tell them they can use as many dots as they want/need

The completed Body Map might look something like this:

  • Discuss the findings: Once everyone has finished putting all the dots they want to on the Body Map, stand back and take a look at it.  Discuss what you can all see – are there any common patterns?

Questions you might ask:

  • Do you see any clusters or patterns of dots?  Identify and label what the clusters are.  For example: a cluster of red dots around the wrists may be an RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) condition.
  • What might be causing these problems?  In the example above, it may be that a possible cause is long hours at a computer, a poor workstation, etc.

The more that members report the same problems, the more likely it is that the work they are doing is to blame. 

4 - Action

Collectively draw some initial conclusions and action points from the Body Mapping activity.  Note the workers' comments and conclusions. 

The next step after the problems/symptoms and the possible causes have been identified, is to do a Hazard Mapping exercise to pinpoint where these hazards are in the workplace (see the Part 2: Hazard Mapping). 

The results of all the mapping sessions (Body Mapping, Hazard Mapping and "Your World" Mapping) should then be used to prioritise and plan further action (see Part 4).

Last amended January 2015