Workplace insurance to cover chronic work stressors
One in three workplace disability claims are related to mental health, and as of January 1, 2018, Bill 127, Chronic Mental Stress Policy becomes law. The policy outlines circumstances in which workers are entitled to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits as a result of mental stress in the workplace.
What you need to know about WSIB mental stress policy
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board defines work-related chronic mental stress as any diagnosable mental disorder that has been primarily caused by a work stressor. Examples include: a worker who develops an anxiety disorder after being harassed or bullied at work, or one who is being consistently exposed to dangerous work conditions.
The policy does not include stress caused by employer decisions such as being terminated or transferred. It also does not include interpersonal conflicts that don’t meet the definition of harassment outlined in Bill 132: Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act. Chronic mental stress must be diagnosed by a regulated healthcare professional.
The new legislation was designed to support workers suffering from chronic mental stress and help them return to work. Prior to Bill 127, these workers were only eligible for benefits if the stress was caused by a traumatic event on the job; there were no benefits for exposure to chronic mental stress in the workplace such as ongoing harassment or bullying.
How to develop a psychological health and safety program
Employers can create a psychological health and safety program to be prepared for, and help reduce worker exposure to chronic mental stress. The voluntary standard CSA-Z1003 Psychological health and safety in the workplace, developed by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), provides an easy-to-understand guideline for prevention, promotion, and policy implementation.
Organizations can also get assistance from provincial health and safety associations such as Workplace Safety North (WSN), which has a Psychological Health and Safety Advisor certified by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) to help companies improve psychological health and safety in the workplace.
“Organizations need to be psychologically safe, as well as physically safe,” says Angele Poitras, WSN Psychological Health and Safety Advisor. “As society evolves, so do workplaces, and it’s important to take a more holistic approach to workplace health and safety, one that incorporates mental and emotional well-being.
“WSN helps leaders build a business case for workplace psychological health, as well as perform assessments to create an action plan based on the organization’s unique constraints, competing demands, and current realities – because every company is different.
“We know on January 1, 2018,” says Poitras, “WSIB [Workplace Safety and Insurance Board] is going to change the rules around stress and allowable claims, so by designing a psychological health and safety program, organizations can be proactive in keeping costs down while making their workplace safer.”
Mental Health First Aid community initiative
A safe and healthy workplace not only has a psychological health and safety program in place to guide the organization, but also gives employees the tools to deal with mental health issues.
In October 2017, Mental Health First Aid training was offered to Sudbury not-for-profit organizations, courtesy of WSN and DMC Mining Services.
“Since early 2016, DMC has identified support for mental health as a growing need, and introduced Mental Health First Aid,” says Don Langlois, Occupational Health Lead at DMC Mining Services.
“By partnering with WSN to provide tools and resources to better support our community, we are encouraging a more comprehensive approach to health and wellbeing, and reducing the stigma and misinformation related to mental health.”
Just as physical first aid is administered to an injured person, mental health first aid is provided until appropriate support is found or until the crisis is resolved. Workers who see each other each work day are often in the best position to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in their fellow co-workers.
Jessica Bertuzzi-Gallo of The Alzheimer Society for Sudbury-Manitoulin, North Bay and Districts, took part in the free two-day training session. “I was excited about the opportunity to further my knowledge in Mental Health First Aid to better support my staff, colleagues, and volunteers, as well as the clients we serve,” says Gallo.
“We often have care partners in distress who require additional support, and being able to recognize the sign of someone who needs mental health support is of great importance. As a non-profit, being able to access this training locally and free of charge is great.”
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Measure Workplace Stress App - Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers and Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Stress prevention at work checkpoints: Practical improvements for stress prevention in the workplace - International Labour Office
Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace - Canadian Standards Association