With the objective of managing mental health problems in the workplace, the Canadian Standards Association and the Bureau de normalisation du Québec have just published a new psychological health and safety standard which employers across Canada are invited to adopt.

The new standard was published on January 17, 2013 and may be downloaded free of charge from the CSA website or consulted by clicking the link below. While compliance is entirely voluntary, the standard provides numerous tools to assist in making improvements to the psychological health and safety of employees in Canadian workplaces.

The new standard is an initiative of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which believes that business needs support to deal with mental health issues in the workplace. In 2011, an MHCC backgrounder stated that mental health problems are the leading cause of short and long term disability in Canada and that the economic burden of mental disorders in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year, with almost $20 billion of that coming from workplace losses.1

The standard invites Canadian businesses to set up a Psychological Health and Safety Management System (PHSMS). It proposes that the PHSMS be modelled on a planned approach based on thirteen workplace factors that have an impact on psychological health (see the table on page 24 of the standard), such as balance, recognition, engagement and workload management. All these factors affect four key business drivers: risk management; cost effectiveness; recruitment and retention; and organizational excellence and sustainability.

The standard recommends that employers, ideally with the support of senior management or the board of directors, incorporate a policy statement into their existing policies that describes their commitment to the PHSMS. Employers may also take action on a number of fronts: education, awareness-building, sponsorship, governance, investigation and monitoring, in order to “develop and continuously improve psychologically safe and healthy work environments for their employees”. To this end, the published standard includes a series of annexes that describe in detail implementation models and scenarios for the new standard.

Read the standard here.