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Psychological safety at work: tips from Gold Award winner

Niagara Casinos, the 2018 Gold Award winner of the Canada’s Safest Employer awards for Psychological Safety and Wellness

When it comes to integrating mental harm prevention into your workplace, learn from the best: Niagara Casinos, the 2018 Gold Award winner of the Canada’s Safest Employer awards for Psychological Safety and Wellness. 

“We’re holistic in our approach to mental health and wellness,” says Safety and Prevention Supervisor Adam Palmer. “Our health and wellness strategy is designed to illustrate how overall wellbeing is composed of interdependent elements: physical, financial and mental wellness. These elements work together; when there is an imbalance in one, it impacts another. We work to promote and continuously improve these programs to foster a psychologically safe workplace.”

Recognized as Hamilton-Niagara’s Top Employer by the editors of Canada's Top 100 Employers, Niagara Casinos operates two facilities that overlook the scenic Horseshoe Falls, employs over 4,000 workers and draws thousands of visitors each year. In addition to gaming and live entertainment, the facilities include a hotel, restaurants, spa, theatre and conference centre. Jobs range from dealers and servers to plumbers, security, limo drivers, grounds maintenance and more.

With support from senior management, Niagara Casinos has developed a comprehensive mental health and psychological safety strategy that

  • creates a safe environment where people are comfortable to be themselves and express themselves. 
  • synergizes with many of the company’s functions and programs, such as learning and development, recognition, recruitment, benefits, safety, disability management and diversity and inclusion.
  • has input from all areas of the operation, including departments and individual associates.

The strategy was created after the company reviewed its top three statistics for WSIB claims, short and long-term disability, as well as use of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Employee Drug Benefit Plan. “We realized that mental health issues were impacting our people,” says Adam, “and we needed to ensure we were providing the right supports.”

“Working with people is probably the biggest psychological safety hazard in our work environment,” notes Adam. The company has a comprehensive violence, harassment and discrimination program and strong surveillance, security and emergency preparedness procedures to protect workers.  

Among the outside stressors, EAP results show that employees are concerned about personal finances and relationships, aging and health.

To improve knowledge and coping skills — and reduce stigma — the company offers mental health support in various forms. For example, Niagara Casinos

  • promotes Mental Health Week, Mental Health Awareness Month, Pink Shirt Day and many other initiatives through its communication channels (safety talks, email blasts, intranet messages, digital signage, newsletters, social media) and special programming for employees.
  • provides workshops and information on anxiety, depression, substance abuse, work-life balance, support options and more.
  • has created a sensitivity awareness resource guide to help leadership support employees who are dealing with general mental health concerns, dependency, domestic violence and suicide.
  • trains managers and employees on how to talk about mental health, recognize signs that an employee may be struggling, and provide resources.
  • offers an EAP that provides counselling and links to resources on wellness, child and eldercare and more.
  • partners with a wide variety of professional organizations, including Best Doctors, United Way, and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Other initiatives to promote mental health and combat feelings of depression include

  • sponsoring and participating in various community events.
  • holding training sessions for leadership and front-line associates on managing mental health issues.
  • offering workshops on financial and retirement planning.

Niagara Casinos says all these initiatives have had a big impact on employee well-being, performance, engagement and job satisfaction and have in turn, reduced disability related costs. “The reduction is not just mental health specific,” says Adam, “but absolutely these programs are a part of it. At Niagara Casinos, we have an ongoing commitment to creating an environment and providing opportunities that enable our associates to stay safe, be healthy and live well.”

How WSPS can help

We can help your organization's workplace mental harm prevention strategy by

  • raising awareness and developing stigma reduction strategies.
  • conducting needs assessments.
  • implementing a policy and programs related to 13 workplace factors that affect mental health.
  • advising on program performance.
  • implementing the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

Find out more on our Workplace Mental Health resource page.