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Last Door’s Supporting HEALTHY EMPLOYEES, HEALTHY COMPANIES: A new national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace – featuring guest speaker The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Labour with Giuseppe Ganci and Louise Cooksey.

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The National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace and Technical Committee Activities

Spring 2012 Update

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has championed the development of a national standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. It is a voluntary standard intended to provide systematic guidelines for Canadian employers that will enable them to develop and continuously improve psychologically safe and healthy work environments for their employees. In addition, it is anticipated that the standard will align with existing relevant standards or those currently under development.

The project is supported through funding by the Government of Canada (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada), and Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace. Funding for the MHCC portion of the work was provided by Bell Canada. Development of this standard is being undertaken collaboratively by the Bureau de Normalisation du Québec (BNQ) and CSA Standards (CSA).

The standard will be made available free of charge for the first five years to help with its implementation.

The ultimate goal is to take a complex subject and make it easier for employers to take steps to prevent mental injury, reduce psychological risk and promote a mentally healthier workplace.
Background:

Much of the original work related to workplace psychological health and safety was done by Bill Wilkerson and Michael Wilson and the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health. This body of work, and others, noted the increasing business impact of workplace psychological health and safety. In fact, the leading cause of short and long term disability in Canada is now related to mental health.

This recent part of the journey began with the reaction of organizations, unions and associations to the work of Martin Shain, PhD. In reports to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (and available on the MHCC website in the Workforce Advisory Committee section) he stated that there are seven areas of law trending towards holding employers increasingly responsible for providing a psychologically safe workplace. This issue focuses not on the individual mental health of employees, but on the hazards or risks in the workplace that could potentially cause mental injury. It is about providing a psychologically safe workplace by considering the exposure or hazards that may currently exist in workplace policies, processes, procedures or interactions.

Although free resources, such as Guarding Minds at Work™ and Psychological Health and Safety: An Action Guide for Employers, are available to help assess and address workplace psychological hazards and risks, it was recognized that there were no clear national guidelines on how to systematically work towards psychological health and safety in the workplace.

In 2009, a Consensus Conference was held to determine if a national standard was needed and if such a standard would be a benefit rather than a burden to employers. The unanimous consensus of business, labour, clinicians and others was that it would be helpful. The Mental Health Commission of Canada took up the cause by seeking funding from the Government of Canada to engage in the standard process with BNQ and CSA. Involving both organizations was intended to help ensure a truly pan-Canadian standard.

In 2010, another group came together in Vancouver, BC to address the need for immediate information about providing a psychologically safe workplace. The results of that session were compiled into a resource called Elements and Priorities for Working Toward a Psychologically Safer Workplace which is available at www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com for those who wish to act now.

In early 2011, an agreement was reached among the Government of Canada, MHCC, BNQ and CSA to begin the process of developing a national standard. A Project Review Committee was established to form and provide guidance to the Technical Committee. The public call for nominations to take part in the Technical Committee on the development of the standard was available from March 2, 2011 on both the BNQ and CSA websites.
A unique aspect of this standard is the inclusion of several annexes designed to assist the user with developing and implementing the key aspects of the standard. These include the following:

A Background and context
B Resources for building a psychological health and safety framework
C Sample implementation models
D Implementation scenarios for small and large organizations
E Sample audit tool
F A discussion of relevant legislation or regulation (as of September 2011)
G Related standards and reference documents

As for all national standards, a Technical Committee of volunteers with experience and interest in this subject matter was established to carry out this work. The membership of the committee represents a balanced matrix of interests. The groups are categorized as shown below.

Stakeholder categories:

Organizations Interests – those representing organizations of different sizes from public and private sectors who could potentially implement the standard as part of their business programs and systems.

Employees Interests – those representing the interests of employees, including labour organizations or representatives from other worker groups.

Service Providers – those representing the interests of organizations providing supportive services for employees and/or employers.
Government/Regulatory Authorities/Insurance – those representing regulatory agencies acting at the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal level, as well as compensation bodies and private insurance organizations.

General Interest – those representing health and safety organizations, academia, research organizations, professional associations, and other experts in the area of psychological health and safety in the workplace.

The value and use of this standard will depend in large part of the ability to hear and respond to the concerns of different stakeholders, work environments, economic demands, sustainability, and unique workplace dynamics.

Project Schedule:

One of the constraints of this project is time. Due to funder considerations, the project should be essentially completed by mid-2012. This meant a quick start and intense work schedule. The first Technical Committee meeting was held on April 12 -13 in Rexdale, Ontario and five other meetings have been held since: on May 30-31, 2011 in Quebec City; on June 28-29, 2011 in Calgary; on Sept. 7-9, 2011 in Halifax; on Jan. 17-19, 2012 in Vancouver; and on Feb. 7-8 in Mississauga.

The Technical Committee addressed how this standard can be helpful and practical for all workplaces, the intention being to bring public resources and effective strategies to the attention of businesses that choose to take steps to provide a psychologically healthy workplace by identifying hazards and reducing risks to the psychological safety of employees, and through relevant promotion and prevention approaches in their workplace.

On November 1, 2011, a draft standard was released for public review with comments having to have been received by December 31, 2011, a period further extended to January 6, 2012. In January and February of 2012 the public input was reviewed by the Technical Committee and a final draft was completed. When the final draft has been settled, along with the required editing, internal review, and Technical Committee vote, an application will be submitted to the Standards Council of Canada for approval as a National Standard of Canada. The expectation is that the standard will be published in the fall of 2012. The standard will be made available free of charge for the first five years to help with its implementation. Training and other support services may be available to organizations who wish to access them (note: in this case, there may be a cost involved).

Status of Project:

April 2011:
Preliminary draft of the standard was presented to the Technical Committee and was reviewed and revised.

May 2011:
Technical Committee working groups drafted specific text for the introduction and body of the draft standard.

June 2011:
Working group recommendations were reviewed by the Technical Committee. Further work was done to develop the draft content into a draft standard for public consultation in the fall.

September 2011:
Technical Committee assessed comments made by a limited group of external reviewers and constituents of the Technical Committee members representing the five interest groups. These comments were taken into account in completing the draft standard that was then sent for technical review and editing by the BNQ and CSA prior to its release for public comment.

November 2011:
Draft document released for public comment – key organizations were alerted for distribution to their members.

January 2012:
Extended public comment period closed. The Technical Committee working groups reviewed comments and developed suggestions for changes to the draft document. Changes have been incorporated in approximately 30% of the document, as of this writing – the remainder to be completed at the next Technical Committee meeting.

February 2012:
Technical Committee met to finish the treatment of the public review comments and to prepare the draft for voting by the Technical Committee. Following this, it went to BNQ and CSA for final technical review and editing.

May 2012:
Technical Review and editing has been essentially completed and the Technical Committee will soon be asked to approve the standard prior to it being sent for final editing (if required) and review by the Standards Council of Canada for approval as a National Standard of Canada.

Release Date: Release is expected to take place in the fall of 2012 pending approvals as noted above.