One of the most significant accomplishments of the Centre was its role in helping to bring together stakeholders and visionaries at a Consensus Conference in 2009. The meeting was held in Vancouver, to formally discuss the idea for a standard on psychological health and safety in the workplace.
By this time, a growing number of thought leaders agreed it was timely to work towards psychologically safer workplaces. This was due in part to the fact that a number of existing resources - such as Guarding Minds @ Work – were now available at no cost. This type of resource was now making it possible for all employers to effectively assess and address the psychological health and safety of their workplaces.
We had the knowledge that this approach made good business sense and we had free resources to help do it. So what had to happen to get more employers on board?
Canadian experts in workplace mental health such as Dr. Martin Shain, Dr. Ian Arnold, Mary Ann Baynton and others identified the need for a framework that could help guide workplaces to take action in this area.
From Arnold’s point of view, such a guideline could help employers identify where to focus to continually improve and build on the occupational health and safety approach already used in many workplace standards.
Shain wanted to avoid psychological injury to employees and the legal liability to employers that could come from that.
Baynton’s focus was on practical approaches employers could implement for supporting employees in a psychologically safe manner.
They realized that all of these objectives could be met by a standard created through a consensus-based approach, which took into account the perspective of employers, employees, union representatives, occupational health and safety professionals, policy makers, and others.
One of the attendees at the meeting was Maureen Shaw, of Act Three Consulting. She explained that the discussions were no longer just about maximizing the whole person, which had been the primary focus of workplace mental health initiatives but rather, on the whole workplace and its effect on employee psychological safety.
The group's decision was unanimous: to develop a standard that would benefit everyone. Baynton said the unofficial motto was to "be helpful and not hurtful to Canadian employers, unions, workplaces and employees."
"Coming together to reach consensus to create a nationally recognized set of processes and activities to achieve a psychologically safe and healthy workplace was the perfect opportunity to align with the wishes of organizations looking for a consistent path forward," said meeting attendee Joseph Ricciuti, then Director, Client Solutions, Canada Group & Health Care, Watson Wyatt Canada.
The decision set a "high water mark" for workplaces, said Shain. "Employers simply cannot ignore the benefits of having mentally healthy and loyal employees who want to come to work each day, and the satisfaction of being able to play a role in maximizing their potential."
The consensus-based statement that resulted from this momentous gathering set the stage for the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace that would be released three years later. The Standard is now showing clear evidence of making a positive difference in workplaces where it is being implemented (see the 2017 research summary report for the full story).
Many of those who came to the table for this important debate back in 2009 have continued to advance the evolution of psychological health and safety in workplaces throughout Canada. They deserve to be recognized,
2009 Consensus Conference participants
Dr. Taylor Alexander, CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association, National
Dr. Ian Arnold, Chair, Workforce Advisory Committee, Mental Health Commission of Canada
Jeanne Bank, Program Manager OHS/MIES, Canadian Standards Association
Dr. Jayne Barker, Director Policy and Research, Mental Health Commission of Canada
Mary Ann Baynton, Program Director, Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace
Jan Belanger, Assistant Vice-President, Community Affairs, Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life
Roger Bertrand, Chair of the Board, GP2S
Dr. Dan Bilsker, Adjunct Professor, COMH, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Supt. Richard Boughen, Director General Occupational Health and Safety, RCMP
Lloyd Craig, Chairman, B.C. Roundtable for Workplace Mental Health
John Duncan, Vice-President, Human Resources, Canada Post
Allan Ebedes, President and CEO, Canada Awards for Excellence & NQI
Jim Ferrero, Coordinator, CAC/ISO/TC197, Bureau de normalisation du Québec
Dr. Kathy GermAnn, Workplace/Workforce Policy Analyst, Mental Health Commission of Canada
Dr. Merv Gilbert, Adjunct Professor, COMH, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Susan Hardie, Senior Policy and Research Analyst, Mental Health Commission of Canada
Andrew Harkness, Senior Strategy Advisor, Healthy Workplaces, Safe Workplace Promotion Services of Ontario
Len Hong, President & CEO, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety
Steve Jackson, Vice-President, Prevention, Ontario Workplace Safety & Insurance Board
Honourable Michael Kirby, Chair, Mental Health Commission of Canada
Daniel Langlais, Coordinator, Healthy Enterprise Standard, Bureau de normalisation du Québec
François Legault, National Director, Employee Assistance Services, Health Canada
Dr. Alain Lesage, Associate Director, Fernand-Seguin Research Centre
Charlotte Logan, Director of Disability Services, Homewood Employee Health
Christina MacIsaac, Program Manager, Community Relations, Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life
Ann Morgan, Disability Practice Consultant, Great-West Life
Dr. Jeff Morley, Staff Sergeant and Registered Psychologist, RCMP National Change Management Team
Stan Murray, Director, Healthy Workplace Programs, Canada Award for Excellence & NQI
Dr. Edgardo Perez, CEO & President, Homewood Health Centre and Homewood Corp.
Dr. Anthony Phillips, Scientific Director, CIHR-IRSC, Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health & Addiction
Joseph Ricciuti, Director, Client Solutions, Canada Group & Health Care, Watson Wyatt Canada
Sari Sairanen, National Health & Safety Director, CAW Canada
Dr. Joti Samra, Adjunct Professor and Scientist, COMH, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Mike Schwartz, Executive Director, Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace
Dr. Martin Shain, Principal, Neighbour@Work Centre
Maureen Shaw, Principal, Act Three Consulting
Stephanie Sofio, Legal Counsel, Commission des normes du travail
Laura Thanasse, Senior Vice-President, Total Rewards, Scotiabank
Bill Wilkerson, Co-founder and CEO, Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health