On January 16, 2013, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), in concert with the Canadian Mental Health Commission (CMHC), labour, and other organizations, launched a new “National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.” The launch of the standard coincides with an ongoing OPSEU Social Services Sector campaign “Action on Workplace Stress”.
The voluntary CSA standard provides employers with a systematic process and tools to create psychologically safe workplaces. It was developed in response to the emerging realization in Canada and around the world, that workplace psychological health and safety is as important as physical health and safety. Previously, most discussions of workplace mental health issues have focused solely on workers’ ability to cope in the existing workplace environment; there has been little discussion about organizational factors such as high work demands or lack of resources and support that can cause or worsen health impacts on workers. It has become clear that to be effective, strategies to improve workplace mental health must include prevention on an organizational level, as well as organizational and individual supports for workers suffering from diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health conditions.
The standard stresses the importance of identifying and addressing factors such as work demands, work organization, work relationships, threats of violence, violence, discrimination, harassment, and bullying that negatively impact workers’ physical and mental health. Preventing “psychosocial hazards” at their source is an important aspect of an employer’s overall strategy for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace and in meeting the requirements of the standard.
Although OPSEU and other unions are supportive of the CSA standard, we believe its effects on workplace mental health will be enhanced if workplace parties use the standard along with the Mental Injury Tools for Ontario Workers (MIT tools) (www.ohcow.on.ca/MIT) launched in October 2012 by the Mental Injury Tool Group. The MIT tool—created by workers for workers—provides resources and information for workers, Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC) and Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) to take action to identify and prevent workplace factors that can contribute to and cause negative mental health conditions for workers.
Three labour representatives participated on the committee that produced the CSA standard: Sari Sairanen, Director of Health & Safety at CAW, Denis St. Jean, Director of Health and Safety at PSAC, and Laura Lozanski, Occupational Health & Safety Officer for Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). These representatives -also part of the Mental Injury Tool Group – participated in the development of the worker tools and took the MIT Group’s input to the CSA table.
Union representatives, worker members of JHSCs and HSRs are encouraged to:
- Download the CSA standard and the Mental Injury Tools for Ontario Workers (at the links below) that complement the standard.
- Bring the standard and the MIT tools to your Joint Health and Safety Committee and recommend that a strategy be developed to identify and prevent psychosocial hazards and create a psychologically safe and healthy workplace.
- Ensure that a preventative approach is taken for the workplace factors that cause or contribute to negative health outcomes for workers.
- Read about OPSEU’s campaign in Social Services, “Action on Workplace Stress” and view the new video and campaign tools.
- Any questions? Contact OPSEU’s Health and Safety Unit.
The “National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace” can be downloaded in English and French for free after entering some data.