Worker Toolkit page

This toolkit is designed to help workers (regardless of your role) to better understand the importance of psychological safety at work, and learn:

Navigate using the quick access buttons above or scroll through the entire toolkit. Make sure to also check out IHSA’s other toolkits for Employers and Supporters

Contribute to a psychologically safe work environment

According to the Canadian Standards Association, a psychologically healthy and safe workplace is one that promotes employees’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to their mental health—no matter if those harms are caused by negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts.

By extension, psychological health and safety in the workplace is the set of policies, processes, practices and programs put in place to manage psychosocial risk factors. At minimum, workplaces must prevent mental harm/injury to workers. They should also promote the psychological well-being of employees.

To learn more, check out Being a Mindful Employee, a free online training program about psychological health and safety in the workplace, offered by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. It is designed to help you, as an employee, to understand the 13 psychosocial workplace factors from the National Standard of Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

There are also many things that you can do right now to contribute to building and maintaining a psychologically safe work environment. The list below offers a few examples, but they are far from the only ways to create a culture of caring. Take time to consider the many other ways that you can support positive well-being and prevent mental harm in the workplace.

  • Be respectful and considerate in your interactions with other workers, as well as with customers, clients, and the public.
  • Treat people from all backgrounds fairly
  • Avoid unnecessary conflict
  • Show sincere respect for the ideas, values, and beliefs of others
  • Understand the importance of protecting psychological health and safety
  • Find effective ways to cope with workplace stress
  • Ensure you have the social and emotional skills needed to do your job well
  • Ensure your organization has prepared you to deal with the psychological demands of your job

Why Workplace and Worker Well-Being Matters

Workplace well-being relates to all aspects of working life—including the quality and safety of the physical environment, but also how workers feel about their work and how it is organized, as well as their working environment and the overall workplace culture.

Workplace well-being measures are meant to control psychosocial risk factors in the workplace. They complement occupational health and safety measures to make sure workers are safe, healthy, satisfied and engaged at work.

What about worker well-being? Many studies show a direct link between productivity levels and the general health and well-being of a workforce. When organizations fail to recognize the importance of worker well-being, workplace problems such as stress, bullying, conflict, alcohol and drug misuse, and mental health disorders may arise.

How do I know if I'm “unwell” at work?

Wellness is about maintaining an overall balance among the many different aspects of your life. The Wellness Wheel, shown below, defines eight dimensions of health that contribute to overall well-being. The dimensions can be considered individually, but in many cases they also overlap and influence each other. For example, taking a job at a new company most obviously relates to the Occupational spoke of the Wellness Wheel, but it’s easy to see how the Financial, Social, Environmental, and Intellectual dimensions would also be impacted—by factors such as your new salary, coworkers, physical workplace, and the mental stimulation (or lack thereof) provided by your daily tasks. Work and your occupational environment is on it’s own a social determinate of health. According to the World Health Organization: “The social determinants of health (SDH) are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” Work, and its associated conditions, is one of the key social determinants of health.

Workplaces, therefore, play an essential role in maintaining positive mental health. A workplace that gives you the opportunity to feel productive and valued can be a positive contributor to overall well-being. On the other hand, stressful work environments—and/or ones that offer fewer intellectual, social, or even financial benefits—can put employees at greater risk for mental health problems. No workplace is immune from these risks, which means workers cannot afford to limit their definition of occupational health and safety to only the physical realm (i.e., whether or not they are at risk of physical injury on the job).

Use this activity template to help assess your overall personal well-being. Think about how your work life affects each area of wellness. How can your workplace support you in achieving greater wellness in those areas that are “within the control or influence” of the employer? (Of course, you can also use this template to examine other aspects of your overall well-being—outside of the workplace.)

8 Dimensions of Wellness

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, USA

The importance of “Fit to Work” and how it differs from impairment in the workplace

What is “fit for work”?

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, “fit to work” or “fit for duty” is a medical assessment that is done when an employer wants to be sure an employee can safely perform a specific job or task under prevailing work conditions. An assessment is most often conducted to determine a worker’s medical fitness after an illness or injury. However, assessments may also be requested when there is a change to the circumstances of a job—for example, if a worker has been transferred to a position where the working conditions are significantly different from their previous role. Learn more about fit to work.

What is impairment at work?

Impairment affects your ability to work safely, but it is not the same as being formally declared fit or unfit to work. Impairment can result from various factors, including many that are temporary or short-term. Issues that may distract a person from focusing on their tasks—and therefore impair their ability to safely perform those tasks—can include mental or physical fatigue, concerns related to family or relationships, traumatic shock, medical conditions or treatments, experiencing harassment or bullying, and alcohol or drug use. Learn more about impairment.

Because anyone can find themselves impaired from time to time, it is important for each of us to understand the causes of impairment and monitor their effects. Assessing your safety and that of others on the job is a shared responsibility we must all take seriously.

Of course, employers must also respond if a worker’s impairment has created a risk to their safety or the safety of others. For example, employers must determine:

  • If the worker has the ability to perform the job or task safely (e.g., driving, operating machinery, using sharp objects)
  • If there is an impact on cognitive ability or judgment

Part of this evaluation should consider for whether impairment is a side effect of a medical condition, treatment, or substance use. In such cases, a formal “fit to work” assessment, which might include drug testing, may be requested by the employer.

While impairment can result from numerous situations unrelated to drinking or consuming drugs while on the job, those factors are nevertheless a concern. If you are worried that your consumption of alcohol or drugs is affecting your work, this resource may help you to better understand your situation.

How to Address Common Workplace Issues That Can Impact Mental Well-Being

For more resources to support your learning and growth around workplace mental health, check out Workplace Strategies for Mental Health. The website looks at a wide range of topic areas designed to support you with:

Working Well

Resources to help employees address workplace issues—from conflict and bullying to accommodations and overall wellbeing.

Getting Help

Practical tools to help you and those you care about who may be struggling with health issues.

Personal Growth

Approaches and activities to support resilience, stress reduction, emotional intelligence and more.

More About Mental Health and Addiction Issues—and Where to Find Supports

If you want to learn more about mental health and addictions without it getting too clinical or complicated, check out the resources found on Wellness Together Canada. The site offers a full suite of "self serve" services to improve your wellness, including assessment tools, skill-building programs, and opportunities to connect with counsellors and peer supports. also features an extensive list of community-based services to support you, as well as those whom you may be helping to find supports. Make sure to bookmark this valuable webpage.

Distress and Crisis Supports

Distress and Crisis Ontario (outside GTA)

Distress lines (within GTA)

The Canada Suicide Prevention Service

  • Call: 1-833-456-4566
  • Text: 45645 (available 4pm – Midnight ET) * English only
  • French (Quebec): Toll-free telephone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 1-886-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

General Information

211 Ontario

  • Information and referral for community, government, social and health services, including mental health resources across Ontario.
  • Call 2-1-1
  • Toll-free: 1-877-330-3213
  • Live web chat
  • Email

ConnexOntario Helpline (not a crisis line – helps link community service and resources)