If you attended the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association Conference on October 20 & 22, 2021, you may have a good idea.  If not, it is worth your while to read through as the World Health Organization states:

“By 2030, it is predicted that mental health problems will be the number one cause of premature death globally.”

Dr. Dayna Bagley from Howatt HR says psychological safety not only influences employees’ health and experience at work, but also impacts safety risks and can show up as increased WCB claims and increased incident and human rights cases which can have a large financial burden.

Across the country, WCB and Occupational Health and Safety Acts are changing to incorporate psychological health and safety.  These changes place increased liability on the employers to ensure the standards are adhered to.  What once was just the right thing to do for your workers and expected communication and behaviour in the workplace, is now being enforced through legislation.

Leading this change is the CSA Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013).  The standard is a voluntary guide to help employers incorporate psychological safety on the farm by promoting mental health and reducing harm to mental health through a systematic approach.  Incorporating the standard will increase work productivity, lessen the financial burden, improve risk management, help with recruitment, and retention to build the best farm team.

The Canadian Mental Health Commission has reported that…

“…in any given year, one in five people in Canada will experience a mental health problem or illness, with a cost to the economy well in excess of 50 billion dollars.”

Psychological health and safety in the workplace means feeling safe amongst your coworkers to be able to take risks and being vulnerable in front of each other.  We don’t have to be perfect; we can speak up even if we disagree; and acknowledging how we really feel even if we aren’t at our best.

Consider the following in regards to the potential impact on your farm for psychological safety:

Mind the GAP: FARM-FARM-FARM is notable here as FARM – Fatigue at Risk Management is key in maintaining psychological safety.  Causes of fatigue can include cognitive demands, physical demands, sleep disruption, inadequate rest, medical conditions, long hours, and workload. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented levels of fatigue due to both societal and personal pressures.  In the Farm Safety Nova Scotia Cultivating Your Way to Burn Out? webinar, we learned that fatigue can have the same effect of impairment as alcohol.  We learned that 24 hours of continuous wakefulness impairs performance like a blood-alcohol level of 0.10%.  Staying awake for just 17-19 hours straight impacts performance more than a blood-alcohol level of 05.%.  We also learned impairment slows an individual’s reaction time to about 50% compared to someone who is rested.

According to Dr. Dayna Bagley of Howatt HR, fatigue can increase employee vulnerability and risk for mental harm or injury. 

Signs of fatigue and impairment include:

To help create a psychologically safe work place, employees should feel …

  • …safe talking to you one-on-one.
  • …comfortable asking you questions.
  • …safe asking you for help.
  • …supported by you.
  • …safe receiving feedback from you.
  • …valued by you.