What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is defined as the absence of harm and/or threat of harm to mental well-being that an employee might experience.

Psychologically healthy and safe workplaces and organizational culture – How are they related?

A psychologically healthy and safe workplace is one that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to employee psychological health including in negligent, reckless, or intentional ways. This type of workplace ensures that the basic needs of employees are considered and enhanced. These needs as it relates to the workplace include:

  • Physical and psychological safety.
  • Skill engagement and healthy challenge.
  • Freedom to express views and contribute meaningfully to work activities.
  • Reward and recognition for contributions.
  • Opportunity for growth and development.
  • Mutual respect from management and coworkers.
  • Ample support and resources to do the job.

A psychologically unhealthy and unsafe workplace is one that lacks several or all these elements and is sustained due to unrealistic or unclear expectations, poor communication and leadership styles, lack of respect and understanding, unresolved safety concerns, insufficient breaks or time-off, and lack of recognition and opportunity for contribution or professional growth.

Organizational culture describes a pattern of basic assumptions invented, discovered, or developed by a given group that are a mix of values, beliefs, meanings, and expectations that group members hold in common and use as behavioral and problem-solving cues. The goal is to have a workplace where:

  • All people are held accountable for their actions.
  • All people show sincere respect for others’ ideas, values, and beliefs.
  • Difficult situations are addressed effectively and appropriately.
  • Workers feel they are part of a community at work.
  • Workers and management trust one another.

A positive organizational culture could improve teamwork and morale, increase attendance, productivity, and efficiency, and enhance retention and competency of the workforce. A negative organizational culture could increase absenteeism and presenteeism, encourage unhealthy habits and attitudes, and create a higher risk of mental and physical problems, incidents, and accidents.

Organizational culture directly influences the level of psychological health and safety in the workplace – thus, prioritizing and working towards a positive organizational culture is key in creating and maintaining a psychologically healthy and safe workplace – and vice versa.


CSA Z1003-13 “Psychological health and safety in the workplace – prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation”

Does your workplace health and safety program address mental health and psychological safety? Which existing elements of your pro‐ gram could be strengthened by considering these aspects? Have you ever wondered what gaps should be addressed to help increase the level of psychological safety in your workplace?

CSA standard Z1003-13 is a free, voluntary standard commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The standard provides guidance for implementation and continuous improvement of a successful psychological health and safety management system. It is complete with sample documents to help you through the process.

Access the CSA standard today to help guide change in the workplace.