SUMMARY: Dr. Martin Shain looks at what contributes to a psychologically safe workplace. A checklist is also provided to help employers assess some areas of potential exposure of risk to psychological safety.

Expanding workplace safety to include psychological safety

A Psychologically Safe Workplace is one in which every reasonable effort is made to protect the mental health of employees and to prevent mental injury.

The requirement to provide and sustain a psychologically safe working environment is a new and still emerging legal duty whose fuzzy boundaries cause uncertainty and unpredictability for many employers.

But one thing is clear: damage awards and "systemic" remedies for psychological injury are on the increase every year.

The easiest way to think about the obligation to maintain a psychologically safe workplace is to see it as an extension of the existing duty to provide a safe work environment. The extension is from physical safety to psychological safety.

Complying with legal requirements

As an employer what should you do to comply with the legal requirement to provide a psychologically safe workplace?

Certainly, some employers may choose to go beyond the minimum requirements contained in existing legislation. Some "best practice" type approaches can be found in the Leadership/Management section of this website.

This particular resource, however, focuses on steps an employer can take to help meet the minimum requirements for providing a psychologically safe workplace.

Once you have read and reviewed this guideline and the sample policies provided, use the Checklist at the end to see where you might be along the road to psychological safety.

Towards a Psychologically Safer Workplace: An employer's guide
Check List for a Psychologically Safe Workplace

Thank you to Dr. Martin Shain, principal of the Neighbour@Work Centre, for developing this material for the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.

Additional information

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