JHSCs: an untapped mental health resource
April 24, 2019 – “Pressure has been building on workplaces to provide physically as well as psychologically healthy and safe workplaces,” says Krista Schmid, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services consultant. “Many employers are talking about it and wondering what to do.”
Among the solutions: tapping into the in-house expertise of your own joint health and safety committee (JHSC). “They’re ideally positioned to act as champions of mental health,” says Schmid.
They can help the employer reduce stigma and pinpoint psychological hazards in the workplace. Interest in this area is growing, and in some workplaces, JHSCs are already incorporating mental health into their workplace duties.
Workplace pressure points
Factors compelling employers to address mental health include:
- Rising disability costs – mental health problems are a leading cause of short‐and long‐term disability in Canada
- New laws on workplace violence and harassment
- A broadening definition of “health” to include mental health
- Growing awareness of mental health issues in the workplace
- Greater legal recognition of the employer’s duty to prevent psychological harm to workers
The JHSC’s role
Reducing mental health harm involves “looking at how workplace factors such as culture, organization of work and workplace relationships are impacting workers’ mental health,” says Schmid.
JHSCs are well suited to root out workplace factors. For instance, JHSCs:
- Conduct workplaces inspections, participate in investigations, and make recommendations to management about safety issues. “They can integrate workplace mental health into these tasks,” says Schmid. “It would require putting on a different lens, but it makes sense for them to keep their eyes and ears open to ensure the workplace is safe in all respects.”
- Are trusted by employees. Workers may feel more comfortable talking to a JHSC member about a problem, such as “I’m really feeling stressed,”
“My supervisor is always picking on me,” or “I’m frustrated that I have no role in the decisions that are made.”
- Are able to regularly survey workers about company culture and health and safety related beliefs with simple yes or no questions, such as, “I think I could report instances of dishonest and unethical practices without fear of reprisal,” or “Safety rules are carefully observed even if it means work is slowed down.”
- Can help identify the mental health impacts of safety-related issues. For instance, “Is the worker with the MSD injury able to do his job without feeling frustrated or stressed?”