World-first: Canada leads the way with a National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

Friday, February 01, 2013

Many Canadian companies offer first aid programs like CPR training but the Mental Health Commission of Canada has a new challenge for employers: to train workers in mental health first aid.

“One in five Canadians experience a mental health problem or mental illness in any given year and many of the most at risk individuals are in their early working years. Canadians spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else,” says MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley. “It’s time to start thinking about mental well-being in the same way as we consider physical well-being, and the Standard offers the framework needed to help make this happen in the workplace.”

Poor mental health costs our country $50 billion per year as 500,000 Canadians can’t go to work each day due to mental illness. To combat the issue MHCC, the Bureau denormalisation du Québec (BNQ), and CSA Group created Canada’s first national standard designed to improve workplace psychological health and safety. Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace – Prevention, promotion and guidance to staged implementation is a practical guide covering the issues and laying out the steps companies and employees can take to improve psychological health in their work environment.

“This voluntary national standard is the result of a collaborative effort between MHCC, BNQ and CSA
Group, and is supported by scientific literature from many relevant areas of workplace health and
safety, social science, and law. There is also a clear business case which supports the need for continual improvement of psychological health and safety in the workplace,” says Bonnie Rose, President, Standards, CSA Group. “Workplaces with a positive approach to psychological health and safety have improved employee engagement, enhanced productivity, and a better financial outlook.”

The Standard takes the highly complex issue of workplace psychological health and safety and boils it down to easy-to-follow implementation steps. The plan is designed for any-sized company, small operations with as few as 10 employees to large organizations with as many as 10,000 workers. The three pillars of success are prevention of harm, promotion of health and resolution of incidents.

The first step to success is assessment. Companies need to determine where the gaps are in psychological safety in their workplace. There is a flow chart identifying the 13 workplace psychological risk factors including organizational structure, psychological job demands, and growth and development.

There is a flow chart describing the implementation process starting with building leadership commitment, and finishing with developing an accountability structure. All the tools to successfully navigate the process are presented, including suggested videos, power point presentations, and informational links. It’s a step-by-step guide for companies to take a positive, inclusive approach to promote psychological health and prevent psychological harm due to workplace factors.

”This Standard will help enable organizations to introduce measures that will assist them in meeting
important internal objectives such as the promotion and protection of workers’ well-being, job
satisfaction, self-esteem and job fulfilment – objectives which have been clearly shown to also lead to
improvement in the ‘bottom line’,” says Jean Rousseau, BNQ Director.

If human needs like security, belonging, self-worth and self-esteem go unmet they can become risk factors for psychological distress. Workplace mental health is the shared responsibility of employers and employees. This process is designed to involve everyone and compliment the human resources and current health and safety policies in organizations. Starting the process is easy by developing a policy statement around workplace psychological health and safety and appointing a workplace champion to lead the cause.
For more information: Visit the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

*Co-chair of the Technical Committee for the Standard, Mary Ann Baynton, will be in Calgary February 27th to discuss how the Standard affects Calgary businesses. Her speech is part of a day-long mental health conference hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association. For further details on the conference you can click on the link below. 


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