SUMMARY: The section Commitment, Leadership and Participation (4.2) in the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace asks that “Management shall ensure that the responsibilities and authorities related to the [Psychological Health and Management System] are defined and communicated throughout the organization”. The following can help with this.

Participation and engagement

People are more likely to be committed to participating in psychological health and safety initiatives if they understand what's in it for them, and if their fears about potential changes or required effort are addressed. Effective communications can help engage both labour and management in supporting psychological health and safety in the workplace.

Examples of general messages for everyone:

  • Our organization is committed to protecting the health and safety of all employees. This includes psychological health and safety. We are embarking on a new initiative to improve our health and safety management approach and consider the psychological health and safety of all employees in every facet of our operations.
  • This is an organization-wide program, involving all employees. Everyone has a role to play and we will be asking for your help. This might include assisting us in identifying approaches, policies, or processes that can support psychological health and safety in our workplace or providing your input with respect to areas of improvement as well as areas where we are already doing well.
  • Rather than focusing on individual mental health, this initiative focuses on how our organizational policies, processes, procedures, and interactions affect our employees' psychological health and safety. For those who have specific mental health needs, please access resources through our (insert specific resources – e.g. occupational health, wellness, human resources, EAP).
  • Senior management and the union (if appropriate) are committed to building psychological health and safety into all aspects of the organization's operation.
  • This initiative is a priority for the organization, and accountability will be built into the process at all levels. This will be a thoughtful and measured approach to ensure that the outcomes improve the psychological health and safety of all employees.

If possible, begin by obtaining commitment from the most senior leadership in the form of strategic policy direction. A written directive from a senior leader that supports the development of a psychological health and safety management system can help ensure that all stakeholders recognize the commitment to the initiative.

An example of a detailed policy statement

Psychological Health and Safety in Canadian Healthcare Settings
Provided with permission of the Canadian Healthcare Association.

Senior leaders

Ensure all senior leaders are aware of the legal, ethical, and economic benefits of a psychological health and safety management system.

Review Making the Business Case for more information.

Sample key message to senior leaders

According to Dr. Martin Shain, an academic lawyer (see Additional Resources below for some of his work), emerging case law is increasingly holding employers responsible for providing a psychologically safe workplace. In addition, research shows that a psychologically healthy workplace can be, on average, more profitable.

Statistics and information about Making the Business Case are also available.

Reviewing 20 Questions for Leaders on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace is one way of helping senior leaders to become aware of the issues and potential solutions.

Union representatives

Where a union exists within an organization, it is important to have their engagement and meaningful participation early on in the process as they will be pivotal to the ongoing success of psychological health and safety in the workplace. Also see Union-Management Cooperation.

  • Recognize that worker well-being is a shared responsibility between unions and management.
  • Strengthen union/management relationships by taking a collaborative, positive approach to psychological health and safety.
  • Leverage union involvement to help sustain a psychologically healthy and safe workplace.
  • If you are complying with the Standard, ensure union buy-in and participation as part of the implementation.
Sample key message to union representatives

The primary goal of implementing a Psychological Health and Safety Management System is to help protect worker psychological health and safety by addressing organizational and environmental factors. Union participation is critical to its success. We encourage union leadership in our organization to play an active role in the planning, implementation and evaluation of this initiative.

Employees

Obtain commitment from employees through participation in a collaborative process. This is critical because psychological health and safety is impacted by the way in which all employees interact on a day-to-day basis. Things to consider when creating a key message to share with employees:

  • Address employee skepticism. Were there past initiatives that failed? Are there challenges with relationships between managers and employees?
  • Be clear that the approach is about improving the organization’s health and safety management system, not about addressing their personal health concerns. Ensure employees know this is not about obtaining private medical information or assessing their mental health.
  • If there are issues, turn the focus toward solutions rather than blame. One way to achieve this is to ask leaders to step up and take responsibility for any existing or recent challenges, even if they were not involved in the conflict or the cause of the problem.

Sample key message to employees
  • This initiative is not about your personal health status. It is about our organization's impact on the health and well-being of all employees.
  • We will be examining our existing processes and how all employees interact with each other on a daily basis. This will include examining how employees work together and support each other. If you had an experience of being supported by a fellow employee that you are willing to share, please email that to (insert contact information).

Middle management

  • Recognize the efforts of middle management in bearing the day-to-day duties of ensuring a healthy and safe workplace.
  • Provide support and resources to help motivate managers to participate and contribute.
  • Recognize your managers' concerns about engaging their employees in discussions about psychological health and safety. This may include worries about pushback, negativity, time commitment, unreasonable demands, or concern that the discussion is outside their expertise.
Sample key messages to middle management
  • Managing employees can be challenging, especially in times of high demand, emotional distress, conflict, or trauma. An effective Psychological Health and Safety Management System can provide information and support to help you address these issues. This has the intent and potential to reduce your own workplace stress.
  • Our managers have done their best to resolve workplace issues, including conflict, performance, productivity, accommodation, and employee distress. We now have new information that can help support a new way of addressing these issues. Over time we are hoping this will improve the comfort level of our managers while reducing their stress and increasing effectiveness. This is all part of initiating a psychological health and safety management system. We look forward to collaborating with all of you as we strive towards supporting you in providing a psychologically healthier and safer workplace.
 

*The Standard describes a worker as "a person employed by an organization or a person under the day-to-day control of the organization, whether paid or unpaid, which includes employees, supervisors, managers, leaders, contractors, service providers, volunteers, students, or other stakeholders actively engaged in undertaking activities for benefit to the organization. French: travailleur, travailleuse. [Reference: CAN/CSA-Z1000 (adapted wording) (see Annex G).]" The term "employee" has been used throughout these resources and is intended to include the Standard’s definition of worker.

Additional Resources


Weathering the Perfect Legal Storm – A Bird's Eye View by Martin Shain, S.J.D. [PDF]
Weathering the Perfect Legal Storm – Analysis and Commentary by Martin Shain, S.J.D. [PDF]

A legal update to Tracking the Perfect Legal Storm [PDF], Weathering the Perfect Legal Storm describes navigating requirements of the emerging duty to provide a psychologically safe system of work in the context of the voluntary National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.