We are all familiar with the need to protect physical health and safety in the workplace; it is enshrined in Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) regulations, legislation and business practice. Enormous progress has been made over the last 100 years in decreasing rates of accidents and illness related to risks posed by workplace conditions or worker behaviors. With advancements in workplace mental health, a new realization has dawned: the protection of workers also includes attending to their psychological (mental) health and safety (PH&S) in the workplace. 

Psychological health and safety ideology is about protecting the psychological health of employees. A psychologically healthy and safe workplace promotes employees’ psychological well-being and works to prevent harm to employee psychological health due to negligent, reckless or intentional acts.

Psychological health includes our personal ability to think, feel and behave in a manner that allows us to function effectively in our work environments, our personal lives, and community. 

Psychological safety deals with the risk of injury to psychological well-being that an employee might experience. Improving the psychological safety of a workplace involves taking appropriate precautions to prevent injury or danger to employee psychological health.

It is important to understand psychological health problems occur on a spectrum, from mild psychological difficulties ( we are referring to difficulties, not an illness) on one end of the spectrum - to severe psychological health problems on the other. The most common psychological health problems in the workplace are anxiety and depression. These conditions account for a large proportion of the negative impacts on employees and employers.

Individuals dealing with just one of the following issues; interpersonal workplace conflict, intercultural conflict, workplace harassment or violence, poor design of work or jobs, poor communication, change -management and technological, shift work, could find themselves progressing from having mild psychological difficulties (unpleasant emotional states like worry or sadness) to a psychological health condition ( depression or anxiety).
 
Work experience's that are perceived to be psychologically unsafe can place anyone of us on the following 1-5 spectrum. Most Important, appropriate psychological health and safety services can prevent escalation to illness.

  1. Unpleasant Emotional States (sadness, worry) normal part of human experience fleeting/temporary
  2. Distress more intense, unpleasant emotions often tied to acute stressors/changes
  3. Chronic Stress, ongoing persistent and often impacts on physical health
  4. Psychological Health Symptoms  - sub-threshold
  5. Psychological Health Condition - clinically diagnosable conditions.

Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych. Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University

THE IMPORTANCE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

The Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction (CARMHA) have developed a comprehensive database that provides a clear picture of why addressing psychological health and safety is important and the employers responsibility toward creation of psychological health and safety within the workplace. The following material is a summary of their data. 

There are a number of reasons employers should assess and address the psychological health and safety of their workplace: legal liability, financial cost and employee health and productivity are paramount. 

 

Emerging legal and regulatory mandates articulate employer responsibilities. 

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Photo Credit:  ms.akr

Photo Credit: ms.akr

There is  research and practical evidence of the impact of workplace factors on employee mental health. 

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The Business Case for Psychological Health & Safety.

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