Workers Health & Safety Centre

New Canadian Standard Focuses on Workplace Mental Health

A stress metre measuring 'high'

A new workplace mental health standard offers a process and tools the authors say will help create and sustain psychologically healthy and safe workplaces.

The standard, entitled Psychological health and safety in the workplace—Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation (CAN/CSA-Z1003-13), was developed by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the Bureau de normalisation du Quebec (BNQ). It was commissioned by the federally-funded Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC).

"It's time to start thinking about mental well-being in the same way as we consider physical well-being, and the standard offers the framework needed to help make this happen in the workplace," says Louise Bradley, president and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC).

An important part of this framework and clearly outlined in the standard is the meaningful involvement of workers and their representative in the process to achieve psychologically healthy and safe workplaces (section The standard calls for employers to provide workers and their representatives with the time, resources and training to participate effectively throughout the process. The involvement of joint health and safety committees or health and safety representatives is also part of the framework (section

Worker representatives and others are supportive of this new Standard, but caution it is just one of many resources available to employers and other workplace parties seeking to address the psychosocial hazards responsible for mental illness.

One such resource is the Mental Injury Prevention Tool Kit developed by the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) in partnership with several unions, academics and others.

The costs of not addressing mental health in the workplace are significant.

For affected workers, psychosocial hazards, including overwork, job insecurity, lack of control over work and work-life conflict, cause harmful stress. This stress leads to irritability, anxiety, depression and other mental injuries. Stress is also a significant contributing factor to other health impacts ranging from the common cold and musculoskeletal disorders to heart disease and cancer. The quality of life outside of work for many is also suffering significantly.

For businesses, mental illness is estimated to cost the Canadian economy in excess of $50 billion dollars annually. Direct cost to business in lost productivity and turnover is more than $6 billion dollars. Mental illnesses account for approximately 30 per cent of short and long-term disability claims. In fact, they are the fastest growing disability claim in Canada.

In reports prepared for the MHCC over the past few years, employers were put on notice they might face significant legal liability for not maintaining a psychologically safe work environment.

For our part, the Workers Health and Safety Centre offers a range of training programs applicable to stress/mental injury awareness and prevention including Stress in the Workplace and Workplace Violence. We've also published a number of relevant fact sheets.

View the Psychological health and safety in the workplace standard.

Want to know more from the MHCC about the legal liability for not maintaining a psychologically safe work environment (see documents under the Workforce header)?

Want to read more about the Mental Injuries Prevention Tool Kit?

Want to learn more about the wide range of WHSC training programs applicable to stress/mental injury awareness and prevention? CallToll Free 1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a WHSC Training Services representative.

Want to read applicable WHSC hazard bulletins including:

Work Stress;
Workplace Violence; and
Behaviour-Based Safety.