July 15, 2018
Stay on top of new chronic stress legislation
Whether it’s a crew member, office staff or experienced manager, excessive stress can result in anxiety, distraction and depression, and be just as harmful as a physical injury.
A new Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) policy compensating employees for work-related chronic mental stress sends a clear signal that mental injuries are just as real, and compensable, as physical injuries. Chronic mental stress is defined as a diagnosed mental disorder predominantly caused by a substantial work-related stressor or series of stressors. Excluded from the definition is chronic mental stress caused by employer decisions related to the worker’s employment, such as changing the work to be performed, disciplining the worker, or terminating employment.

“Health and safety advocates have long held that employers have a responsibility to prevent mental harm,” says Andrew Harkness, Strategy Advisor, Organizational Health Initiatives and Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS). “The WSIB’s new policy is just one more in a series of legislative measures across Canada confirming this position.”

The policy defines what WSIB would and wouldn’t consider chronic mental stress. Examples of situations that could lead to chronic mental stress:
  • A crew member who is regularly subjected to inappropriate and harassing comments from several co-workers. Despite confronting them, the harassment increases and the worker develops a depression disorder.
  • A supervisor who is subjected to demeaning comments from his or her manager on a regular basis, often in front of other workers and develops an anxiety disorder.
Compensable injuries of any kind impose direct and indirect costs on injured workers and their employers. For workers, these costs may include reduced income and quality of life, temporarily or permanently. Employers may face medical costs, hiring or retraining costs, and legal fees.

Some best practices for creating a mentally healthy workplace:
Inform yourself. Read the WSIB policy and learn about the workplace
factors that affect mental health. Check out online tools and resources, such as ThinkMentalHealth.ca.

Assemble a business case that positions employee physical and mental well-being as a top priority. Management support of a strategic, proactive approach is the first step in making changes.

Create a physically safe environment. An unsafe workplace can cause stress and anxiety. It can also distract workers, increasing the risk of physical injury and reducing productivity.

Create a psychologically safe environment. Build trust, honesty and fairness into everyday operations and provide opportunities for employees to grow. People who feel safe are more loyal, more effective, and happier to work.

Promote civility and respect. Clearly defining goals, roles and responsibilities, establishing a code of behaviour, setting reasonable hours and deadlines, offering flexible working conditions, and encouraging open communications can reduce stress, boost well-being, and improve innovation.

Provide psychological and social support. Equip managers, supervisors and employees with the information and skills to maintain their own health and support others.

For more information, resources and tips visit WSPS.ca.