The Canadian Standards Association, the Bureau de normalisation du Québec and the Mental Health Commission of Canada have released a new National Standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace (currently available for free download). The Standard was developed to help organizations create and sustain psychologically healthy and safe workplaces. While compliance with the Standard is not currently required by law, its voluntary implementation may help employers avoid legal issues arising from human rights and/or occupational health and safety concerns.   

The National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

The Standard provides a framework for organizations to create and/or improve a psychologically healthy and safe workplace. This framework mandates the following:

  • Identification and elimination of psychological hazards in the workplace;
  • Assessment and control of risks that cannot be eliminated;
  • Implementation of structures and practices that promote psychological health and safety in the workplace; and
  • Fostering a workplace culture that promotes psychological health and safety in the workplace.

The Standard further lays out a step-by-step approach to implementing a psychological health and safety management system in the workplace. The key steps are as follows:

  • Planning, which involves the identification of hazards, risks, legal requirements, management system gaps, and opportunities for improvement.
  • Implementation, which involves ensuring that the organization:
    • Has the infrastructure and resources necessary to achieve conformity with the Standard;
    • Has adequate preventive and protective measures in place to address the hazards and risks identified during the planning phase;
    • Establishes and sustains processes to improve education, awareness, and communication about psychological health and safety in the workplace;
    • Develops governance processes and documentation requirements to ensure the effective implementation of the Standard;
    • Provides training, coaching and support to employees; and,
    • Has procedures for reporting and investigation related to psychological health and safety incidents.
  • Evaluation and corrective action, which involves monitoring and measuring the workplace’s performance in the achievement of targets set during the planning stage, conducting internal audits, and taking preventive and corrective action where necessary.

The Standard provides two implementation models. The first assumes that an organization already has the required commitment and stakeholder engagement necessary for the progressive implementation of the Standard. The other assumes that senior leadership in an organization has not yet committed to the Standard, and focuses on providing tools for demonstrating the value of psychological health and safety standards to the organization in order to increase organization-wide engagement. 

As the Standard was introduced by the CSA it is not law, and an employer’s legal obligations with respect to psychological health and safety are still only partially addressed in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Human Rights CodeHowever, any employers adopting and following the Standard will help themselves comply with such legislation and, if the Standard achieves what it aims to, such employers may also find employee morale improves and turnover decreases.