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Mental Health and Safety in the Workplace

Date: 30th June 2017

There has been an increasing emphasis put on mental health and safety in the workplace in recent years. As a result, the demand for companies being held accountable for providing a mentally healthy and safe workplace has also increased.  The expanded view of not just addressing physical injuries but mental “injuries” as well has resulted in addressing hazards such as work place violence, bullying and mental stress. Legal actions are increasingly being taken in major areas of law, which includes health and safety and human rights law.

Quick Facts from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC):

  • Each week, 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems.
  • The total cost from mental health problems to the Canadian economy exceeds $50 billion annually—nearly $1,400 for every person living in Canada.
  • In 2011, mental health problems and illnesses among working adults in Canada cost employers more than $6 billion in lost productivity from absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover.
  • Awards for damages caused by mental injuries at work have increased 700% in recent years
  • In Canada alone, mental health issues and illnesses account for more than one third of disability claims and two-thirds of disability costs

Where to start?

Employers can face difficulties figuring out where to begin or where to invest the limited resources they have to combat the complex issue of mental health and safety. Having a standardized framework can help with that so they know what they are doing is right, and that it works for their organization.

However, mental health and safety can be challenging due to the real-world situations of demanding working conditions, diverse stakeholders that are involved, and the various ways people interact with each other.

There can be a fear from employers that implementing stringent workplace violence or harassment initiatives will hamper their ability to discipline workers, manage the workplace, and remain financially stable.

All of this was taken into consideration when developing and implementing standards to help Canadian organizations with these problems.

Creating best practice approaches in Canada

Initially launched in January 2013, the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the Z1003 Standard) is a voluntary standard that includes tools and resources to help organizations create a framework for promoting mental health and preventing psychological harm at work. The standard is similar in approach to other management standards that have a Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) approach.

The goal was to be on the frontier of addressing mental health in the workplace. The standard is receiving recognition as a global first and has received worldwide recognition from other bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for being the first of its kind.

Since the release of the standard, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) recently released their findings of its three-year Case Study Research Project, which followed 40 organizations from various industries and sectors that implemented the Standard.

The result of the study revealed that participating organizations report that the guidelines can help:

  • Productivity
  • Financial Performance
  • Risk Management
  • Recruitment and Retention

Is the standard for everyone?

Working Canadians spend 60 percent of their waking hours at work.  Such a major component of a person’s day can obviously have a large impact on a person’s wellbeing.  Workplaces can play an essential role in fostering positive mental health for all employees. Also, workplaces can be stressful environments that can negatively impact mental health.

Many organizations have a bullying and harassment and/or violence in the workplace program including a policy in place. However, even the existence of a harassment or violence policy which the employer has communicated to employees may not be good enough.  A framework of engagement, education, review, and monitoring is essential to breathe life into the policies. Employers have a legal duty to maintain a physically safe workplace in addition to a mentally safe workplace. Overall, implementing the standard hopes to create a framework or safety management system (SMS) that can help organizations identify specific hazards relevant to mental stressors to workers, and concentrate on preventing these areas of concerns.

You are able to download the national standard for free and receive more information from the following link:

If you would be interested in discussing implementing a mental health in the workplace program, please contact Pacific Safety at or call us on 604-278-3512


Posted in: Blog