The Link Between Psychological Health and Safety and Occupational Health and Safety
By: Liz Horvath, Hale Health and Safety Solutions
Many employers are struggling with issues related to psychological health and safety in the workplace, including high levels of stress, burnout and complaints of harassment and bullying. The Ministry of Labour has been inundated with complaints. The Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario does not prescribe measures related to psychological health and safety, except for workplace harassment, workplace sexual harassment and workplace violence, and in 2017 the MOL issued 11,662 Orders for violations of workplace violence and harassment requirements, topping the list of top 10 health and safety violations. Employers can reduce their risk and improve their business outcomes by implementing a workplace mental health strategy that provides a systematic framework to address these issues.
The general duty clause (OHSA section 25(2)(h) requires that employers do everything reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of workers. This has typically been applied to protecting the physical health and safety of workers. However, workplaces that allow mental harm in reckless, negligent or intentional ways and that do not support or promote employee mental health run and increased risk of mental and physical harm to employees.
But its more than legal duty. The cost of stress in the workplace is high.
The Morneau Shepell 2014 National Survey found that 99% of physicians surveyed indicated that chronic or undue stress from work issues have a role in the mental health of patients they see on a regular basis.
Studies show that chronic or undue stress is a major factor in mental harm. It can cause a vicious cycle that negatively affects the physiological function of the individual and increasingly hampers their ability to cope with stress, thus perpetuating the cycle. Employees have more difficulty focusing, their quality of work and productivity suffers, and they are at higher risk of:
- Mental injury including anxiety, depression and burn-out,
- Physical injury and death (work and non-work related); and
- Non-communicable diseases.
So here you are. Standing on the platform with a briefcase full of knowledge about the health crisis that threatens our workforce and the sustainability of our organizations and a viable solution to make a significant and valuable contribution to the solution. What now? What are your next steps? Can you really afford not to explore how to integrate psychological health and safety with occupational health and safety?
Here are a few tips to help you with embarking on the journey:
- Gather some high-level data to give you an initial understanding of the real cost of mental health in your organization
- Do a preliminary inventory of policies, programs and procedures that support psychological health and safety in the workplace
- Review the National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace
- Attend training to help you understand the journey to creating a psychologically healthy and safe organization and help the OHS committee define their level of involvement in psychological health and safety issues
Reach out to MaxPeople if you require additional information about the National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.