Part 3: Hazard Mapping

Where and what are the hazards causing problems in your workplace? 

  • Physical Hazards?  Noise, radiation, vibration, temperature, more…
  • Chemical Hazards?  Cleaning agents, solvents, exhaust fumes, asbestos, ...
  • Biological Hazards?  Infectious diseases, bacteria, needlesticks, body fluids, working with animals ..
  • Work design Hazards?  Ergonomic hazards, working alone, violence and aggression from third parties, ….
  • Stress Hazards? Workload, hours of work, shiftwork, harassment, discrimination, …

Down in the packing department just about everyone complains about tired legs, aching backs and sore wrists.  In the office, it's headaches, sore eyes and wrist problems (again!).  And when the drivers come in they grumble about being over-tired, or about their lower back pains, or their upset stomachs.

There are so many potential causes in workplaces.  How can you identify these hazards and prioritise them?

How Hazard Mapping can help:

You have done a Body Mapping exercise with your members during which together you identified problems they are experiencing with their health that may be work-related.  You have also begun to look at what the possible causes for these problems are, and begun to prioritise them.  Now you can use further mapping techniques to investigate the problems further. 

Like Body Mapping, Hazard Mapping gives a visual picture and is another way for workers to get together and get their concerns down on paper.  Hazard Mapping helps your members to visualise their workplace and the hazards that exist there.

This information (like Part 1: Body Mapping) has been developed to help Health and Safety Representatives run one or more Hazard Mapping sessions with members of their Designated Work Group. 

It provides them 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: if they have had some experience running Body Mapping sessions, this exercise should be easy and fun to do too. 

What you will need:  

  • Some large pieces of paper (eg Butcher's paper) with "HAZARD MAP" written at the top.
  • Various coloured marking pens
  • Blue Tac (or sticky tape) to stick the Hazard Map on the wall or a white board

Running a Hazard Mapping Session:

1 – Getting started

Like the Body Mapping exercise, it's best to do Hazard Mapping with the workers all together in the same place at the same time.  You can work out the best way to do this – but if possible it should be done during working hours. 

Like Body Mapping, the exercise should be done with members from the same/similar location at the workplace.  If your Designated Work Group is too large, or includes very separate areas of the workplace, you could consider running separate Hazard Mapping sessions for each of these. 

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

If you have not already done so when running the Body Mapping session, make sure that your members understand what your role is as OHS rep and why you are doing this exercise (see Part 1: Body Mapping). 

Explain that doing a Hazard Map is a way of further investigating problems identified during the previous Body Mapping session.  Like that session, it allows for each worker to be directly involved and contribute to the overall Hazard Map. 

3 – The actual mapping

  • Hand out a sheet to each group
  • Ask them to sketch out the physical layout of their workplace together – it can be anything from a rough sketch to something more resembling a blueprint.  Warn them not to make the map too small – they will find usually that there is heaps of information they will want to put on it.
  • Make sure they label the map – that is, what part of the workplace this is a map of.
  • Tell the workers that if they do not have a clear, separate work area (for example if they have non-routine work, or work in maintenance or deliveries), then they could draw a map of their route (or whatever they think best reflects their "workplace").
  • Ask them to add themselves and any co-workers (these can be stick figures)
  • Next ask your members to draw any existing hazards and, if possible, label them.
  • Explain that the map can be drawn retrospectively – that is not only to identify what is currently there, but also what might have been there in the past, drawn from memory.  This can be useful to establish the link between the workplace and health problems that have a latency period, such as cancer, or sensitisation.
  • A clearer picture can emerge if hazards are coded using colours or symbols, for example:
    • Red: physical hazards.  Noise, heat/cold, leaks, slippery floors, no guards on equipment, radiation, accidents, etc
    • Blue: Chemical hazards.  Dusts, vapours, fumes, gases, mists, storage areas, second hand smoke, solvents, etc
    • Brown: Work Design hazards.  Fast paced work; repetitive work; work which requires physical stress or pressure on the body; work which requires an awkward posture, or any part of the body to stay still, for long periods of time (poor ergonomics); exposure to local or whole body vibration; poorly designed work procedures; etc
    • Green: Infection hazards.  Viruses, bloodborne diseases, body fluids, moulds, bacteria, infections from animals, etc 
    • Purple: Stressors.  Inadequate training, forced overtime, speed-up, monotony, machine-paced work, piece rates, harassment, discrimination, fear of violence, lack of control over the work, etc

The completed Hazard Map (eg of a kitchen) may look something like this:


  • Discuss the findings: Have a discussion with your members on what their map/s look like and what hazards they have identified.   Ask them to describe their map/s.
    Some other questions you might like to ask them:
    • Are there any further details you want to add as you're describing your map?
    • Are there any observations you want to make?
    • Does anything surprise you about what you see on the Hazard Map?
    • Are there any patterns, or common hazards that you can see?

4 - Action

Collectively draw some initial conclusions and action points from the Hazard Mapping activity.  Note the workers' comments and conclusions.  You could complete a preliminary table with the following column headings:

Hazard Cause Effect What can be done?

Use these results, and the results of the other mapping sessions (Part 1: Body Mapping and Part 3: Your World Mapping) to prioritise and plan further action with the workers (see Part 4: Planning Further Action).

Last amended January 2015