Canadian Occupational Safety

May/June 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 30 of 35 31 "There need to be conversations about preventing mental harm or mental injury," says Andrew Harkness, a Strategy Advisor, Organizational Health Initiatives, at WSPS. "And I think when we use those words, it helps… We need to take it out of the clinical terminology and say, 'If somebody's been hurt at work, whether it's physical or mental, we have an obligation to prevent that from happening in the first place. We also must learn from it and try to prevent it from happening again.'" On a monthly basis, every department at Lais delivers a five- to 10-minute safety talk on the decisions made in the past month to improve overall health and safety as well as mental well-being. It has also built the "WeCare Program," which provides resources directly to its team. This is especially helpful for seasonal employees who might not have strong relationships within the organization. This isn't being done out of altruism. Survey respondents agreed that investments like Lais' in managing mental health concerns can improve employee productivity, workplace culture and engagement, the ability to meet business objectives and employee attraction and retention. Harkness says organizations need to discover the unique challenges their teams face when building a mental health strategy. Once an organization has those in hand, it can start to build the processes and procedures it needs. "As human beings, we're pre-wired for the quick fix," Harkness says, "but the problem with mental health is you have stigma, you don't have a clear idea of just how big the issue is beyond estimations… and many of us are going to live with our mental health issues for the rest of our lives." Harkness says organizations need to think long term when they build their mental health policies. They need precision in language and process to categorize mental health issues, call them what they are and address them as such. The coronavirus pandemic is a multifaceted challenge for any organization's mental health strategy. Employees' basic human needs of health, employment and social connection are under threat, leading to mental distress. Workplaces need to secure their employees' mental health "There need to be conversations about preventing mental harm or mental injury." Andrew Harkness, Strategy Advisor, Organizational Health Initiatives, WSPS or risk compromising the team's cognitive skills. "On any given day, the risks to physical health and safety are many and varied. With the march of COVID-19 across the global landscape, the focus on ensuring the safety of employees has become even more challenging and important," WSPS President and CEO Lynn Brownell says. "Yet, as much as the virus has resulted in concerns for our physical safety, the resulting impact of fear, anxiety and isolation on psychological health cannot be overstated. It is something leaders will need to reckon with in the months ahead." She says social connection is key. Leaders need to set up regular communications sessions for employees, invest in their work-from-home capacity and employ novel strategies such as setting up video coffee breaks or establishing work buddy systems. Brownell says this is a time to reinforce existing mental health support policies and implement new ones. WSPS is there to help organizations build specific processes to address mental health concerns. Organizations can bring WSPS consultants on board to train managers, survey employees and recommend the tailor-made policies. It offers mental health training courses for organizations looking to improve capacity. Even organizations such as Lais, with established initiatives, can draw from WSPS' free database at to buttress its existing policies. Culture may be the key to addressing mental health concerns. Organizational culture is at the top of WSPS' list of 13 psychological factors for workplace mental health. Lais' own success has stemmed from culture. "For us, workplace mental health begins with a culture that's very much in support of worker well-being," says Dymond. "We want to make a positive environment, so workers feel comfortable coming forward with mental health concerns." The survey raised a range of key insights around emerging challenges in workplace health and safety and their solutions. You can find WSPS' full report on the survey at survey_leadership . COS Brought to you by

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