SUMMARY: A Psychological Health and Safety Management System is similar to other management systems and should be integrated with existing policies and processes. This does not need to involve a significant investment, or a complete change in what your organization is already doing.

How this resource aligns with the National Standard

The National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the Standard) describes a psychologically healthy and safe workplace as one "that promotes workers' psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health, including in negligent, reckless, or intentional ways".

The free resources provided here are aligned with the framework of the Standard to assist you in developing a Psychological Health and Safety Management System for your organization.

The framework includes:

Role of a Health and Safety Committee

In addition to physical health and safety concerns, health and safety committees should now also consider the workplace hazards and safety measures that may impact the psychological health and safety of the workforce. Ideally this committee would be actively involved throughout the development and implementation of the Psychological Health and Safety Management System.

The Health and Safety Committee should:

  • Become familiar with the factors that impact psychological health and safety in the workplace.
  • Bring forward general workplace psychological health and safety issues.
  • Help reduce workplace stigma related to mental illness by providing education, training, and resources.
  • Focus on overall workplace psychological health and safety issues rather than individual mental health concerns.
  • Articulate the committee’s mandate as it relates to workplace psychological health and safety.
  • Ensure committee members are trained on how to support a worker with a mental health issue or concern. This would include referring the worker to appropriate resources and maintaining confidentiality.
  • Establish a process for tracking and communicating the results of psychological health and safety-related activities.
  • Have a process for bringing concerns and issues to senior executives for resolution.
  • Become involved in the assessment of psychological health and safety and plans to address concerns. See Guarding Minds @ Work™ for more information.
  • Help foster and contribute to an environment that is psychologically healthy and safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some general questions that support the business case for adopting a Psychological Health and Safety Management System.

Why should our organization implement a Psychological Health and Safety Management System?
A Psychological Health and Safety Management System can help ensure that your organization is effective in managing human capital. It can also contribute to a healthy bottom line. You may wish to consider looking at psychological health and safety as an integral part of all your operations. For example, you can integrate concern about psychological health and safety into business activities such as hiring, training, promoting, and redeploying employees.

Is this about employee mental illness?
No. The adoption of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System is not about assessing an individual employee's mental health. It is about considering the impact of workplace processes, policies, and interactions on the psychological health and safety of all employees.

On average, there will be a percentage of the working population diagnosed with a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. Human rights, labour, and employment laws speak to workplace obligations and responsibilities for this group, including the duty to accommodate. While a Psychological Health and Safety Management System can be helpful for this population, it is primarily intended to be preventive for mental injuries to the entire workforce in the same way that occupational health and safety systems are preventive for physical injuries and illnesses.

Are you suggesting that organizations are solely responsible for the psychological health of all employees?
No. Many factors, including those that are outside of an employer's control, can have an impact on psychological health. These include factors that are not related to the workplace such as:

  • Genetics
  • Personal issues
  • Family concerns
  • Financial challenges

Generally, an individual is responsible for his or her own health and well-being, whether in or out of the workplace. However, organizations should do no harm to worker health.

One analogy would be a physical risk, such as a chemical in the workplace, which may not negatively impact all workers who are exposed to it. If the identified risk from the chemical is significant enough, that chemical should be eliminated. If the risk cannot be eliminated, it may be isolated, and training or guidance may be offered to those whose job requires exposure or, new procedures may be put in place to help mitigate the risk of exposure to the chemical. It is just as important to identify potential risks to the psychological health and safety of workers and take steps to eliminate or limit those risks for workers. A Psychological Health and Safety Management System helps employers learn to do this more effectively.

Will the process of implementing a Psychological Health and Safety Management System open up the proverbial "can of worms"?
This is a common concern among employers in deciding whether to implement a Psychological Health and Safety Management System. Avoiding or denying issues can allow problems to escalate into a crisis.

Taking action to consider psychological health and safety issues can help prevent time-consuming and morale-damaging situations from arising. There are several legal cases where organizations promoted people into positions of authority without the checks and balances to ensure their competence. Had these safeguards been in place, the resulting legal cases would not have taken up the time and resources nor damaged the reputations of the organizations involved.

Effective communication about the intent of the System as well as clear guidelines about approaches toward improvement of workplace psychological health and safety can help organizations get as much value from the process as from the outcomes.

Will a Psychological Health and Safety Management System create a lot more stress for managers?
Some managers may worry that a Psychological Health and Safety Management System is aimed at uncovering individual manager shortcomings. That is not the point of the System. Managing employees can be challenging, especially in times of emotional distress or conflict. The free training module Managing Emotions validates these challenges and helps managers gain insight, knowledge, skills, and training to address these concerns.

Management style is only one of several factors that may impact psychological health and safety in the workplace. Anyone who is interested in improving personal and organizational effectiveness can benefit significantly from the implementation of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System.

Could this approach violate employee confidentiality and privacy?
The Psychological Health and Safety Management System is not intended to focus on any individual employee. Rather, it is intended to consider organizational approaches, strategies, policies, procedures, and interactions that have the potential to impact the psychological health or safety of any employee.

Every organization is unique and the approach to establishing, documenting, and maintaining a Psychological Health and Safety Management System should respect its needs and resources. Helpful approaches and strategies are available through these sections free of charge, and can be modified to the unique nature of your organization.