Workplace Health and Safety includes Mental Health
Employers in all jurisdictions across Canada have the responsibility under law to provide a safe and healthy workplace – including a mentally healthy workplace.
Employers are responsible for identifying and controlling hazards in the workplace and they must ensure that employees have the necessary information, training and supervision to work in a safe and healthy manner – including awareness of known or foreseeable workplace hazards. Employers must include the impact on workers’ mental health when considering the effects of the work and the workplace environment.
A robust workplace mental health strategy is a sound investment!
A mentally healthy workforce increases overall productivity while lowering absenteeism and healthcare costs that contribute to the overall success of both the employer and employee. Depending on the workplace, the workplace health and safety environment and culture can have a significant positive on an employee’s mental health, or a negative impact that could lead to the development of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Workplace issues that negatively affect mental health include:
Inadequate mental health and safety policies
Poor communication and management practices
Mental health stigma and discrimination
Presenteeism (working while you are ill)
Limited participation in decision-making
Low levels of support for employees
There is more that unites us than tears us apart when we think about mental health. Workplace stress can become overwhelming, and if left unaddressed can increase the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The fact that mental illness effects at least one in five people is good reason for workers to stick together and ensure employers have effective workplace mental health strategies. We must always remember that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure we are safe at work.
Pro-active workplace mental health strategies that include workers’ participation in the development of effective policies and procedures can help end the stigma regarding mental health, improve an employee’s quality of life, reduce sick days, and increase employee productivity.
Ending the stigma means:
Supporting workers interested in learning what it means to deal with a mental illness without judging or distancing ourselves;
Supporting workers when they are struggling with the effects of an illness;
Ending the stigma means not generalizing that mental health illness is more prevalent within certain communities, ethnic identities, gender identities; etc.
What can your workplace do to support mental health?
The Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and safety identifies eight strategies that employers can use to encourage positive mental health:
Encourage active employee participation and decision making
Clearly define employees' duties and responsibilities
Promote work-life balance
Encourage respectful and non-derogatory behaviours
Allow continuous learning
Have conflict resolution practices in place
Recognize employees' contributions effectively