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We need to address psychological safety in the workplace with effective policies.

Time to rethink your harassment policy

When it comes to protecting your workers with a psychologically safe workplace, you can’t put your head in the sand any longer.  Your harassment policy is as important as your health and safety policy and they are inextricably linked.

It is time for every organization to step up and ensure they demonstrate the same respect for psychological safety and mental health as they do for physical health and safety. It is time to normalize our conversations about safety to include psychological safety. Has your harassment policy kept up with your health and safety policies?


We need to address psychological safety in the workplace with an effective harassment policy.
It is time to eliminate the fences between our health and safety and our harassment policy conversations.

For some time now in Canada we have talked about mental health and physical health in the workplace and everyone is in on it.  One of the 13 psychosocial factors as identified by researchers from the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA) at Simon Fraser University, as described in Guarding Minds @ Work, is physical safety. Likewise, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety advocates that a comprehensive Workplace health and safety program has four main components: occupational health and safety (the physical work environment); psychosocial work environment (organizational culture & the organization of work); workplace health promotion (wellness); and organizational community involvement. The CCOHS goes on to say that mental health should be incorporated into each of these categories for effective workplace health promotion programs.

Here in Alberta, Craig Coolahan, Alberta MLA for the riding of Calgary-Klein, has recently tabled private member bill #208, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act, aimed at protecting all Alberta employees from harassment in the workplace. The proposed amendments increase the scope and obligation of employers to protect employees from harassment beyond what is covered in human rights legislation.

And this brings me back around to what you are doing. Do you need any more evidence to convince you to re-examine your policies, and not only that, the way you develop your policies?

I am interested in your health and safety committee and the scope of their work. In the world of mental health, we are encouraged to normalize conversations about health to include mental health.  When it comes to safety in the workplace, we are not quite there yet.  In larger organizations, I have anecdotally observed that this committee, as mandated, is focused on the physically safe workplace environment. It usually has a role, for example, in developing a violence-prevention policy. In a separate department, often HR, a separate committee meets to discuss the harassment policy. Many organizations have structural barriers to ensuring a consistent and coherent language and approach to addressing both psychological safety and physical safety.

It is time to think about this differently.

Let’s normalize our conversations about safety in the workplace to include psychological safety. Let’s offer psychological safety minutes alongside physical safety minutes. Let’s foster a workplace culture which recognizes the link between best safety practices and a psychologically safe workplace. Let’s get started.

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