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Many thanks to Dorothy Wigmore for sharing with SEMCOSH her practice of "layered workplace mapping". 

Layered workplace maps -- make one

Risk maps are one way to find workplace health and safety problems, prioritize them and follow a problem-solving process.

Traditional risk maps record only the hazards by category. The hazards are found by talking to workers, asking them to do the maps and by workplace inspections. Questionnaires can be used to find symptoms, which can then be tied to hazards. The hazards and/or symptoms are recorded using symbols or icons; each hazard has its colour. Size indicates how much of a problem it is and number of people exposed can be written inside the icon.

But the hazards are not hazards without people. Where are the people? Who are they? What are the "social relations" in the workplace? How does all this fit into the picture, especially if you want to try to fix problems? Can we not do social maps too?

Layered maps are one way to do this. This factsheet will provide a taste of what can be done with these kinds of maps. Make a map with four layers:

  • physical layout and work flow.
  • people -- individuals, groups, leaders (including bosses).
  • zones where people feel free to talk, etc. and where they do not want to be.
  • the hazards.
  • add another layer of information about social life in the workplace.

Do it!

1. Pick a work area or workplace to map. Draw it quickly.

2. The artist should be someone who does not know the work area/place. They will follow the instructions from those who do know the area.

3. Using a black marker, draw the physical layout and work flow on a sheet of flip chart paper. Chose a scale that fits and lets you still mark people and hazards so they can be seen. Usually, this will include the basic layout, washrooms, water coolers, stairs, important doors and windows and other physical spaces people use. You don't need to include everything today. That's layer one in the table below.                 

people tissue paper
green dots
red dots
blue circles
leaders (mark bosses with a "B")
social information
tissue paper
green paper
pink paper

free zones -- where people want to be
hot zones -- where people don't want to be
tissue paper

black yarn
orange yarn
purple yarn
red yarn
blue yarn

management info lines
union info lines
grapevine lines
leaders influence lines
groups influence line
symptoms or exposures
tissue paper
different kinds of hazards

4. For the risk/symptom layer, use the following colours and shapes (icons):

Hazard category Colour Icon
accidents yellow circle
hazards also found outside the workplace like noise, heat, etc. blue diamond
hazards specifically found in the workplace like chemical, biological or radiation exposure red square
physical, ergonomic, stress hazards brown pentagon
mental stress purple star

5. On the hazard layer, you can add other information. For example, if you know how many workers are exposed to a specific hazard, put the number inside the icon for that hazard. If you think the hazard is quite serious, make the icon larger than others in the same category. If it's not very serious, draw the icon smaller. If the hazard is light or noise, you can draw something to indicate that.

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