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Implement the Canadian Psychological Health and Safety Standard

Good psychological health and safety is paramount for employee satisfaction and engagement, and to satisfy the Duty of Care to employees. We will work with you to implement the Canadian Standard, uncovering your specific priority areas and setting up your Psychological Health and Safety Management System. Please see the additional information below.


If you would like to move your organization beyond the "If you don't like it, you can leave" mentality, we can help! Please contact us to become an employer of choice. We can talk to your HR department, Safety committee, and senior management to get things moving in the right direction. Organizations outside of Canada are also implementing these best practices, which can increase employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.



Treena Chabot, is a
Certified Canadian Mental Health Association
Psychological Health and Safety Advisor.


What is Psychological Health and Safety?

“A psychologically healthy and safe workplace is one that promotes employees’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to employee psychological health due to negligent, reckless or intentional acts.” (Guarding Minds at Work)


Here are some important facts about Psychological health, and an indication of why psychological health and safety has become so important:

One in five employees experience a mental health problem each year (this is 20% of Canadians); five in five employees could experience one (any person at any time). Every week, 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health. The primary cause of mental illness is workplace stress: 37% have depression, 32% have anxiety. Stigma prevents people from asking for help: 72% of workers surveyed reported fear of being stigmatized. People with mental illness may be able to work at optimal levels for only 70% of the workday. The cost of mental health to the Canadian economy is $50 billion, over $2.5 trillion worldwide. (Statistics from Morneau Shepell)


What is the Canadian Psychological Health and Safety Standard?

The Canadian Psychological Health and Safety Standard is a set of best practices that guide organizations in promoting mental health and preventing psychological harm at work. The Standard allows for the review of important factors in the workplace that are outside of a worker’s control, but have the potential to cause mental injury.


These 13 Psychosocial Factors, as outlined by Guarding Minds at Work, include:


Psychological Support – A work environment where co-workers and supervisors are supportive of employees’ psychological and mental health concerns and respond appropriately as needed.


Organizational Culture – A work environment characterized by trust, honesty, and fairness.


Clear Leadership & Expectations – A work environment where there is effective leadership and support that helps employees know what they need to do, how their work contributes to the organization, and whether there are impending changes.


Civility & Respect – A work environment where employees are respectful and considerate in their interactions with one another, as well as with customers, clients, and the public.


Psychological Competencies & Requirements – A work environment where there is a good fit between employees’ interpersonal and emotional competencies and the requirements of the positions they hold.


Growth & Development – A work environment where employees receive encouragement and support in the development of their interpersonal, emotional, and job skills.


Recognition & Reward – A work environment where there is appropriate acknowledgement and appreciation of employees’ efforts in a fair and timely manner.


Involvement & Influence – A work environment where employees are included in discussions about how their work is accomplished and how important decisions are made.


Workload Management – A work environment where tasks and responsibilities can be accomplished successfully within the time frame available.


Engagement – A work environment where employees feel connected to their work and are motivated to do their job well.


Balance – A work environment where there is recognition of the need for balance between the demands of work, family, and personal life.


Psychological Protection – A work environment where employees’ psychological safety is ensured.


Protection of Physical Safety – A work environment where management takes appropriate action to protect the physical safety of employees.


What are the Legal Reasons for adopting the PH&S Standard?

The Psychological Health and Safety Standard is not law, however, the courts have been accepting the presence of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System as proof that employers have been fulfilling their Duty of Care for the mental health and safety of employees. This Duty is placed on employers through occupational health and safety law, employment contract law, labour law, tort law, human rights law, workers’ compensation statutes, and employment standards.  


What is included in a Psychological Health and Safety Management System?


You may already be doing some great things in your workplace, and you might have already surveyed employees. The system will ensure all factors are being considered, and that the protection of employee mental health and the promotion of mental wellness is considered in all other business activities. It formalizes your efforts.



How do I begin to adopt the PH&S Standard?

Many organizations begin the project of adopting the Canadian Psychological Health and Safety Standard in their HR departments and use a change management process. The great news is that you can do a lot of the work yourself, without a consultant. It begins with making a business case for the potential costs of mental health issues to your workplace and ensuring key areas become involved.


Making the business case. Before asking management to commit to a Psychological Health and Safety Management System, a business case can be created. Compile an estimate of the costs of mental health to your organization, including accident rates of accidents, EFAP costs, sick days, disability rates and costs, and presenteeism, which can be estimated as 7.5 x the cost of sick days. These measurements can serve as the metrics to track in your system.



Engage the different areas. Your top company leader will need to write a policy and state support for Psychological Health and Safety. He or she must also set a realistic budget for psychological health and safety initiatives. An invitation to participate in the survey and focus groups must also come from this person. Union officials or other related joint committees should be included in the discussions.

Other managers shall be asked to participate in an organizational review to discuss the Psychosocial Factors from their perspectives. TREE for Supervisors can facilitate these meetings for you.


The Health and Safety Committee should create a working group to administer the initial project and follow through in implementing changes. This ensures that mental health is a part of safety discussions, and it makes use of the employee rep system for bringing mental health hazards to the committee’s attention, while recreating a record for follow up. The committee shall engage employees in generating ideas for solutions to priority issues. A formal Work Plan is created to ensure follow through.


Employees need to be invited to participate in the survey, but it should not be made mandatory. The survey is free from Guarding Minds at Work, and TREE for Supervisors can administer this for you, or review existing engagement surveys you may have already done. Focus groups should be used to ascertain additional, qualitative information from employees; TREE for Supervisors can facilitate these for you as well. All information gathered from employees must be kept completely confidential, and employees should not be made identifiable in any way. The Standard requires a minimum of 10 employee participants for this reason. A communication plan needs to be developed, to ensure employees are informed and everyone is getting the same message, including progress updates.


What happens after the PHSMS is set up?

Once the structure is in place and the surveys and reviews are completed, your health and safety committee will tackle the priority areas, one at a time. Each smaller project will have deliverables and measurements to ensure solutions are implemented and working. Every two years, the larger survey should be repeated to ensure the most pressing Psychosocial Factors are brought to the forefront.


While every organization is different, a review of current harassment and respectful workplace policies may be required. Managers at all levels will need to ensure protection of employees and be able to respond to mental health episodes and requests for accommodations. Employees may need help with coping and resiliency, access to available supports, and assistance with removing individual stressors. Trust in management and support from management and coworkers, as well as the reduction of stigma are also important. You may find Mental Health First Aid, other programs, and interpersonal skills development useful to your group, as well as additional in-house, creative initiatives.


Psychological Health and Safety will then become part of the way you do everything else. Your ongoing safety discussions with include considerations for mental health. The employee life cycle should also be updated to ensure psychological health is part of job design, competency requirements, training, performance appraisals, accommodations, and other human resources functions. Other organizational policies can be reviewed to ensure there are compliant with the duty of care for employee mental health. These activities will complete your system.


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