SUMMARY: A Psychological Health and Safety Management System can help ensure that your organization is effective in managing human resources. It can also contribute to a healthy bottom line. The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace  (the Standard) states, “Psychological health and safety is embedded in the way people interact with one another on a daily basis and is part of the way working conditions and management practices are structured and the way decisions are made and communicated.”

Aligning with the Standard

To implement a Psychological Health and Safety Management System in a way that supports the principles outlined in the Standard, you may wish to consider looking at psychological health and safety as an integral part of all your operations. For example, you can integrate concerns about psychological health and safety into business activities such as hiring, training, promoting and redeploying employees.  

The free resources and approaches provided in this section are aligned with the framework of the Standard to assist you in developing a Psychological Health and Safety Management System that can be integrated throughout the employment lifecycles of your organization.  

The framework includes:

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some general questions and answers that help explain the value for organizations in implementing 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 maximizing employee potential. It can also contribute to a healthy bottom line. You can embed psychological health and safety as an integral part of all your operations.

For example, you can integrate a psychologically healthy and safe approach 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.

A percentage of the working population will have a diagnosis of a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. Human rights, labour, and employment law speak to workplace obligations and responsibilities for addressing issues concerning this group of employees, 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 necessarily related to the workplace such as genetics, personal issues, family concerns or financial challenges.

Generally, each person is responsible for their own health and well-being, whether in or out of the workplace. However, organizations should do no harm to employee health.

An analogy can be found in considering exposure to a chemical in the workplace. If the identified physical risk from the chemical is significant enough, that chemical should be eliminated. If the chemical cannot be eliminated, potential risk should be reduced. Safety training or guidelines may be offered to those whose job requires exposure to the chemical, or new procedures may be put in place to help mitigate the risk of exposure. Even with high risk chemicals, it is likely that not every employee will be harmed, but this does not mean that the organization would not take steps to reduce the risk.

It is just as important to identify potential risks to the psychological health and safety of employees, even though all may not be harmed. Taking steps to eliminate or limit those risks for employees is part of the overall Psychological Health and Safety Management System.

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. The reality is that a voiding or denying issues can allow problems to escalate into serious damage to employee health and productivity.

Taking action to consider psychological health and safety issues can help prevent expensive, time-consuming and morale-damaging situations from arising. In his book Preventing Workplace Meltdown, Dr. Martin Shain cites several legal decisions that have held organizations accountable for not ensuring that managers or leaders had the competence to manage people safely. Had psychological health and safety measures been in place, these organizations may not have incurred the costs of legal expenses, court-ordered remedies, and potential damage to reputation.

While management approaches are part of psychological health and safety, so is the way employees interact with each other. By communicating effectively that every employee has a responsibility for psychological health and safety, you can shift focus away from looking to blame anyone, and instead consider how each employee contributes and resolves potential workplace issues. This can reduce or eliminate the escalation of issues or opening up a “can of worms”.

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. This is not the point of the System.

Managing employees can be challenging, especially in times of emotional distress or conflict.

Management style is only one of several factors that may impact psychological health and safety in the workplace. Improving professional and organizational effectiveness is part of the overall implementation of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System.

Could this approach violate employee confidentiality and privacy?
The Psychological Health and Safety Management System does not focus on any individual employee. Rather, it is intended to help organizations address 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.

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

The following are links to resources that may be of interest to you. If you click on a link you may be entering a third party website not maintained or controlled in any way by us or our affiliated companies. For more information, see Legal and Copyright.

Assembling the Pieces
An easy to use Implementation Guide to the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. This guide offers four key steps and is one approach to implementation of the Standard. Developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and CSA Group with help from the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.

See Elements and priorities for working towards a psychologically safer workplace for more information about considering the impacts of psychological health and safety at all stages of the employment lifecycle.