Imagine working in a highly productive environment in which you feel safe, respected and valued; the work is challenging; the demands of the job are reasonable; you have work-life balance; and your employer supports your involvement in your work and interpersonal growth and development. This is what is known as a mentally healthy workplace.
What is mental health?
The World Health Organization defines mental health not merely as the absence of disease, but also as a feeling of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
In the workplace, the traditional view of health and safety now includes a comprehensive approach that incorporates the total well-being and mental health of employees, also referred to as psychological health and safety. Psychological health and safety refers to the safeguarding of employees' psychological health, promotes employees' psychological (mental) well-being, and actively works to prevent harm due to negligent, reckless or intentional acts.
The most common psychological health problems in the workplace are anxiety and depression. Poor mental health in the workplace has far reaching negative impacts: hurting the individual, reducing employer profits, and costing the Canadian economy billions of dollars in losses each year.
What impacts employee mental health
There are several issues that can greatly affect employee mental health that organizations should consider in their efforts to create a mentally healthy workplace. The comprehensive workplace guide "Guarding Minds at Work" identified thirteen Psychosocial Risk Factors (PSRs). These PSRs are elements that can impact employees' psychological responses to work and work conditions, potentially causing psychological health problems. These problems ultimately affect the health of the organization, individual employees, and the financial bottom line. They also impact the way in which work is done (including interactions and relationships with managers, coworkers, and customers) and the context in which work occurs.
The Psychosocial Risk Factors are:
- Psychological Support
- Organizational Culture
- Clear Leadership & Expectations
- Civility & Respect
- Psychological Job Fit
- Growth & Development
- Recognition & Reward
- Involvement & Influence
- Workload Management
- Psychological Protection
- Protection of Physical Safety
Included are issues that affect mental health such as stigma and discrimination, presenteeism, job burnout, violence, harassment and bullying, and substance abuse.
Employers are required by law to protect the mental and physical health of their employees. Many provincial occupational health and safety acts have been expanded to include harm to psychological well-being in the definition of harassment. In jurisdictions that do not have explicit legislation dealing with psychological health in the workplace, the general duty clause would apply.
What employers can do to support mental health
Just as every workplace is different - from the size, to the people doing the work, to the work itself, to the leaders running the organization - there is no one "right way" to create a mentally healthy workplace. However, to effectively incorporate mental health at your workplace, commitment must start at the top with the involvement of all levels of leadership in the workplace including the board of directors, management, and finance and human resources departments.
One way to achieve a psychologically safe workplace is to implement a Comprehensive Workplace Health and Safety (CWHS) Program. The program consists of a series of strategies and related activities, initiatives, and policies developed by the employer, with input from employees, to continually improve or maintain the quality of working life, health, and the well-being of the workforce. There are more details on how to develop a CWHS Program in the link provided at the end of this article.
You can encourage positive mental health by:
- encouraging active employee participation and decision making
- clearly defining employees' duties and responsibilities
- promoting work-life balance with your employees
- encouraging respectful behaviours in your organization
- managing workloads of your employees
- enabling continuous learning to help employees develop and grow
- having conflict resolution practices in place
- recognizing employees' contributions to help them feel valued and fulfilled
Additionally you can:
- Assess psychological safety in your workplace and develop a plan to address it.
- Develop a policy statement reflecting your organization's commitment to making workplace mental health a priority.
- Specifically include mental health and psychological safety in your occupational health and safety committee mandate.
- Develop policies and practices for workplace harassment, violence and bullying. Review your current policies and procedures and consider how they might be positively or negatively contributing to issues of violence and harassment.
- Provide education and training to ensure managers and employees know how to recognize hazards such as harassment, bullying, and psychologically unhealthy work conditions, and provide practical ways for co-workers to recognize and talk about mental health issues in general. Equip managers with the skills and knowledge to identify and respond to issues before they escalate.
- Educate all health and safety committee members about the importance of mental health in the workplace.
- Ask the worker representative(s) on the Health and Safety Committee to raise general workplace mental health issues that affect their workforce and not any individual's particular situation. Ensure that individual privacy and confidentiality be respected.
- Develop substance abuse policies (i.e., use of illicit drugs at work, alcohol consumption at work, etc.) and inform employees of them.
The challenges faced in the workplace by employees with mental health issues are many, and the impacts are far reaching. However, employers play a key role in supporting the mental health of their employees and in creating a healthy workplace which ultimately improves the health of both employee and the organization.
Info on how to establish a Comprehensive Workplace Health & Safety Program, CCOHS
The 13 Psychosocial Risk Factors, Guarding Minds at Work
Healthy Minds at Work website
Taking a Proactive Approach to Maintaining a Mentally Healthy Workplace podcast
Psychological Health and Safety, podcast
Workplace Health and Wellness Program - Getting Started, CCOHS
Mental Health Works website
Mental Health: Awareness e-course
Tips & Tools
Do's and don'ts when cutting with a chain saw
Each year many people are injured while using chain saws. The hands, knees, feet and head are most vulnerable to being cut by the chain saw chain. However if you use a chain saw often, there are also other health risks such as hearing loss from the noise of the chain saw; damage to the hands from vibration; poisoning from chain saw exhaust gases if used in enclosed spaces; and the risk of fire from fuel spillage. Learn the do's and don'ts of cutting with a chain saw, and prevent injuries.
Before you start
- Only use chain saws that you have been trained to use properly and safely.
- Read the owner's manual carefully.
- Wear personal protective equipment and clothing: See CCOHS' OSH Answers Chain Saws - Personal Protective Equipment for more detailed information.
- Use only chain saws that have been manufactured and maintained according to standards like the CSA Standard Z62.1-03 (R2008) "Chain Saws" and that are equipped with a safety chain and chain brake. Check legislation in your jurisdiction for other requirements.
- Know how to use the controls before starting a chain saw.
- Remove the chain guard (scabbard) and inspect the saw and machine for damaged, loose, missing parts, or other signs of wear, or leaks around the engine before starting.
- Ensure that the guide bar is tight and chain fits snugly without binding; adjust the chain tension, if required.
- Inspect the saw chain to ensure it is properly lubricated and is sharp. Sharpen and lubricate, as needed.
- Check the air filter and clean when needed.
- Check the muffler spark arrestor screen, if present. Spark arrestor screens help reduce the risk of fire, especially in dry forest conditions.
- Inspect the chain catcher - it helps reduce the risk of injury when a chain breaks or comes off the guide bar.
- Ensure that chain is clear of obstructions before starting.
- Engage the chain brake before starting the chain saw.
- Warm up the saw prior to cutting. The saw should idle without the chain turning. If the chain continues to turn after the throttle switch is released, stop the saw. Then adjust the idle as shown in the owner's manual.
- Check that the throttle trigger, throttle trigger interlock, master control lever, etc. are operating properly.
- Plan each job before you start. Arrange to have help.
- Do not use a saw if it has damaged, improperly adjusted, or has loose or missing parts.
- Do not "drop start" (starting a saw in hands) or when a chain saw is touching your body. This method leaves only one hand to control a running saw and can result in leg cuts.
- Do not start a saw unless it is at least 3 meters (10 feet) from any approved fuel safety containers.
- Do not make adjustments to the chain or guide bar when the motor is running.
When cutting with a chain saw:
- Carry the chain saw by its front handle, with the muffler away from your body and the guard bar pointing behind you.
- Know the location of the persons working with you at all times.
- Use the correct saw. The weight, power, and bar length should all be suitable for the job.
- Operate the chain saw in well-ventilated areas only.
- Ensure that you have secure footing and that your stance is well balanced.
- Hold the saw firmly on the ground using your foot, or by holding the powerhead down with one hand. Point the chain away from your body and nearby obstructions. Use a quick, sharp motion on the starter cord.
- Operate the chain saw in a firm two-handed grip with fingers and thumb surrounding the handles. Keep both feet firmly positioned when operating a chain saw.
- Maintain full power throughout each cut.
- Ensure that the chain does not move when the chain saw is idling.
- Turn off the chain saw before refuelling or doing any maintenance.
- Keep your saw clean -- free of sawdust, dirt and oil.
- Wear safety gloves or mitts when sharpening the chain.
- Do not start a chain saw when it is resting against any part of your body.
- Do not refuel a chain saw within 3 m (10 ft) of a fuel storage container.
- Do not stand directly behind the saw.
- Do not leave a saw running unattended.
- Do not carry chain saws while it is running.
- Avoid contact with the muffler. Serious skin burns may result.
- Do not cut alone.
For detailed information, read the CCOHS' OSH Answers fact sheet on the safe use of chain saws.
Cross-Canada video contest focusing on workplace rights and responsibilities
Have a passion for workplace health and safety or worker rights? Are you a young creative type, just waiting for your big break? If so, the new, national social media video contest, "It's Your Job!" could be your chance.
Work is an important part of life, but no job is worth getting hurt over. Workplace injuries happen in a heartbeat but the resulting injuries can have a lasting impact on your ability to do the things you like to do. Further, everyone who works has rights under employment standards to be treated fairly in their workplace. Canada's ministers of labour launched the video contest as part of their commitment to directly engage youth and raise awareness about their workplace safety and rights.
The contest challenges secondary school students and those who are not in secondary school (but are at least 18 years old and less than 25), living in Canada, to use their creativity to develop an original video that can be used in social media to illustrate to younger workers the importance of working safely on the job, or about their rights to being paid fairly for the work they do.
Winners will be chosen from every region of Canada. You could win cash prizes for you and your school, and maybe even become a YouTube sensation. The national entries will be judged by a panel of celebrities that includes Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea and Marc Kielburger of Free the Children. The winning Canadian entries will be entered in an international video contest.
A selection of top videos will be posted on the "You Tube - It's Your Job" video contest page from Saturday May 4th to Sunday May 12th, 2013 at 11:59 p.m., local time, where they will be viewed and voted on by the public. The videos that receive the most votes in each category will each receive an additional prize of $1000.
You can submit your videos starting February 1, 2013 until the contest closes on April 5, 2013 at 11:59 p.m., local time.
For more information on the contest and prizes, please visit www.youtube.com/yourjobvotretravail or www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/labour/health_safety/contest/index.shtml.
Rules and regulations
Health and Safety To Go
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts explore the impact, if any, that psychosocial factors have on musculoskeletal disorders and feature a timely encore presentation on healthy hygiene habits that help prevent the spread of germs.
Feature podcast: How Psychosocial Factors Affect Musculoskeletal Symptoms and Disorders
Dr. Birgitte Blatter, Business Line Manager of Healthy, Vital and Safe Work at TNO in the Netherlands explores the role workplace psychosocial factors play in the development of musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders. Dr. Blatter is also a featured presenter for CCOHS' Forum IV that will take place October 29th and 30th, 2012 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The podcast runs 12:05 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Help Prevent the Spread
CCOHS shares 9 healthy hygiene habits to help prevent the spread of germs (and to keep from catching someone else's) during the cough, cold and flu season.
The podcast runs 3:28 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
CCOHS' Forum IV: Better Together has been in the works for almost two years, and now it is just weeks away. This two-day national health and safety event brings together subject experts, workers, employers, and government into one vibrant setting to share their knowledge and perspectives around total worker well-being. There's no event quite like it.
The Forum is a great opportunity for you to hear from leading experts such as Barbara Coloroso and Gary Namie; get insights into real world experiences with case studies from Trillium Healthcare and Donna Hardaker; and participate in workshops on key topics such as mental health, psychosocial work factors and musculoskeletal disorders, harassment and bullying, and integrated workplace health and safety.
As an added bonus, all Forum IV delegates are invited to attend a reception hosted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) on Monday, October 29th 2012 from 5-7pm. The two-hour event will provide a unique networking opportunity for Forum participants while gaining an insider's perspective of the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (to be released November 2012).
The voluntary Standard, championed by the MHCC, and developed by the Canadian Standards Association and the bureau normalisation du Quebec, is a guide that offers organizations a process for promoting and protecting psychological health and safety in the workplace. You will hear from a workplace expert who was involved in the development of the Standard and have the opportunity to ask questions. This is a great opportunity to learn how the Standard can assist you in promoting mental health and preventing psychological harm to all people in your workplace.
Clock is ticking
Only weeks away, the Forum is 85 per cent full, so register now to avoid disappointment. And you only have until October 5th to take advantage of the special Forum rate of $169 per night at the Marriott Harbourfront.
Don't miss the chance to be inspired, add your voice to the conversation, and help stimulate creative solutions.
Learn more about CCOHS Forum IV.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2017, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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