New workplace psychological health and safety standard to launch in November

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — The new standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace, the first in Canada, is scheduled to be released in early November of this year and will be offered free of charge for the first five years, according to officials close to the standard’s technical working group.
Elizabeth Rankin, project manager for CSA Group, and Ian Arnold, a health and safety professional — both involved in the development of the new standard — led a session at the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) Professional Development Conference.

Rankin emphasized the role of the workplace in finding solutions for mental health issues in Canada.

“As much as we can say, ‘Leave your problems at home,’ we don’t tend to do that… We’re venting at work (about personal problems,” Rankin pointed out. “We bring out problems to work, and we bring our work home.”

The business case for developing a standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace is also compelling, Rankin said. Two-thirds of Canadians spend as much as 60 per cent of their time at work. 

The economic burden associated with mental health is $51 billion per year, and $20 billion of that are workplace losses. Around 47 per cent of short and long term disability cases in Canada are related to psychological health and safety issues, Arnold said.

The development of the new standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace was spearheaded by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the CSA Group and Quebec-based standards body Bureau de normalisation du Québec.

The standard will be a voluntary guideline to help employers address mental health and wellness issues in the workplace, according to Arnold.

“The standard has two purposes: preventing psychological harm and promoting psychological health,” he said.

The standard provides guidelines to help organizations establish a psychological health and safety management system, including leadership commitment and participation, planning, implementation, evaluation and corrective action, and management review and continual improvement, Rankin explained.

With inputs from various stakeholders through a public consultation, the standard was developed by a multisector technical working committee comprised of representatives from employers, organized labour, service providers, academia and regulatory bodies.

Rankin said the committee received more than 850 comments from the public consultation, and made sure those comments were taken into account.

The new standard also drew from existing framework around health and safety and psychological management, including CSA Z1000 for occupational health and safety Management, CSA Z10002 for hazards and risk management, and BNQ 9700-800/2008 Healthy Enterprises standard.

This is important, Rankin said. The working committee wanted to develop a standard that can be integrated with existing standards and framework that are already in place within an organization.

“We made sure we are not reinventing the wheel (with the new standard),” she said.

Arnold said the technical working committee realized, as with new system implementations, there will be some costs associated with implementing a psychological health and safety system in the workplace.

This is part of the reason why the new standard, when launched in November, will be offered free of charge for the first five years.

“There’s always cost involved, but there’s also pay back,” Arnold said. “It will take longer to get ROI (return on investment) in this are, but it will come.”