On Safety

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Time to look at mental health in the workplace?

February 25, 2014

Employers are responsible for ensuring the physical safety and health of their workers. Should they also take steps to ensure the mental well-being of their workers? That’s the direction employers in Canada may be going.

The Canadian government, nonprofits and several employers have partnered to improve mental health among workers in the country.

Last year, the nonprofit organization CSA Group and the business-support group Bureau de normalisation du Quebec launched what’s being called the world’s first National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. It’s a voluntary standard meant to provide tools and a framework for employers to promote mental health and prevent psychological harm.

Those organizations recently have partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the country’s minister of labour to launch an initiative to help improve workplace mental health. The initiative will include a three-year research project tracking Canadian workplaces as they adopt the standard.

“The mental health of employees is as vital as their physical safety on the job and this standard, combined with other occupational health and safety standards, is a testament to the commitment of participating organizations and stakeholders to play a leading role in helping to make Canada a leader in workplace health and safety,” Bonnie Rose, president of standards for CSA, said in a press release.

According to the groups, about 500,000 Canadians will miss work on any given week due to mental health illnesses, which cost the Canadian economy $51 billion a year. Improving mental health leads to reduced absenteeism and a healthier and more competitive workforce, they said.

Could addressing mental illnesses be the next step in improving workplaces for employees? Is this a good thing, or do other areas of concern need more attention than mental health? Let me know in the comments below.

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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