Ellen MacEachen

Ph.D. (University of Toronto); M.Sc. (Queen's University)
Contact Information
Email Address: 
Office Phone Number: 
416-927-2027 X2136
Institute for Work & Health
481 University Avenue, Suite 800
M5G 2E9
Current DLSPH Academic & Administrative Appointments
Current Position: 
Associate Professor
SGS Status: 
Full Member
Appointment Status: 
Status Only
Administrative Positions: 
Education & Training History

Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, 2003

M.Sc. Rehabilitation Medicine, Queen's University, 1993

B.A. Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, 1988 (including a one-year academic exchange at University of Wales, Swansea, UK)

Other Affiliations

Co-Director, Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy 

Scientist, Institute for Work & Health

Past-President, Canadian Association for Research on Work and Health

Associate Editor, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

Academic Fellow, Centre for Critical Qualitative Health Research, University of Toronto

Academic Council, Pacific Coast University

Mentor, Work Disability Prevention CIHR STrategic Training Program 

Research Interests
  • work disability policy
  • organisation of occupational health systems
  • disability management and labour force participation
  • injured and vulnerable workers
  • qualitative methods
Primary Teaching Responsibilities
  • CHL 5122 H Advanced Qualitative Research: Framing, Writing & Beyond
Professional Summary and Appointments

My research program is informed by a critical social science perspective—one that considers the organisation of health systems within their social, political, legal and economic contexts. A fundamental question is: what is the logic of systems, and that informs and drives the diverse sets of actors that constitute systems? My methodological expertise lies in qualitative research methods, systematic reviews, and knowledge translation and exchange.

In the spring of 2013, I was awarded (with Co-Director Emile Tompa), a $2.78M SSHRC Partners Grant to create a 7-year national Canadian program of research on work disability policy.  Our newly created Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy assembles a multidisciplinary group of 51 researchers and 46 partners (state, community, labour) to consider the challenge of our fragmented Canadian work disability system. The ultimate goal of the centre’s research program is to improve public policy that fosters paid labour-market engagement of all people, including when injured or disabled.

Much of my research has focused on how state occupational health and safety systems for injury prevention and disability management are designed and operate (including vocational retraining systems, return-to-work systems). I am currently leading a study of the Ontario system of sending inspectors to inspect workplaces for compliance with occupational health and safety law. This empirical study, with a multidisciplinary team and qualitative and legal data and analyses, is complimented by a concurrent systematic review that I am leading of qualitative peer-reviewed literature on implementation of regulatory levers to protect workers from occupational injury. 

Health systems need to be relevant to local organizational contexts, and implementable. I have focused a part of my research on how occupational health systems fit with and are implemented in particularly challenging work organisation contexts (studies of the boom-and-bust software sector, small businesses, the temp agency sector with the three-way employment situation) and for complex, poorly understood health conditions (repetitive strain injury). 

Honours and Awards
  • Robin Bagley Award for Excellence in Teaching (Early Career).  Faculty Award, Department of Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 2007.
Current Research Projects

2013-2020. Tompa, E. & MacEachen, E. (Co-Directors); (Co-Investigators, in alphabetical order) Baril-Gingras, G., Bornstein, S., Boucher, N., Breslin, C., Calvert, J., Cooke, G., Côté, P., Coutu, M.F., Dawe, D., de Boer, C., Dewa, C., Durand, M.J., Facey, M., Gewurtz, R., Grignon, M., Hanes, R., Heymann, J., Holness, L., Jennissen, T., Koehoorn, M., Laberge, M., Latimer, E., McLeod, C., Montreuil, S., Neis, B., Noël, A., O’Campo, P., Ostry, A., Premji, S., Provencher, Y., Rioux, M., Saunders, R., Scott-Marshall, H., Shaw, L., Small, S., White, M., Zeytinoglu, I.; (Collaborators, in alphabetical order) Bernier, J., Finkler, E., Franche, R.L., Helfand, N., Ison, T., King, A., Lippel, K., Loisel, P., MacAhonic, P., Mendelson, M., Stapleton, J., Torjman, S.; (Total of 49 co-investigators and collaborators and 45 partner organizations). Income Security and Labour-Market Engagement: Envisioning the Future of Disability Policy in Canada. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Grant. $2,760,782 for 7 years.

2013. Loisel, P. (Principal Investigator), MacEachen, E., Tompa, E., Côté, P., Kube, D. (Lead Team), (and in alphabetical order)  Alter, D., Anema, J., Bültmann, U., Cassidy, D., Cooper, J., Dewa, C., Franche, R.L., Feuerstein, M., Gross, D., Hung, L.K., Koehoorn, M., Kristman, V., O’Hagan, F., Pransky, G., White, M (Co-Investigators). Mobilizing Work Ability and Health/Mobiliser les connaissances pour travailler en santé. Networks of Centres of Excellence-Knowledge Mobilization (NCE-KM) Letter of Intent submitted January 10 and invited to submit full proposal. $15,000 received for LOI development. Grant request of $1,221,680 over 4 years.

2012-2014. Laberge, M. (PI), MacEachen, E., Vezina, N., Barette-Brisson, P. Évaluation de l'utilisation d'outils d'apprentissage visant le développement de compétences liées à la SST. Éducation, Loisir et Sport Québec (Projet de recherche-action visant l’expérimentation d’interventions novatrices), $75,000.

2012-2013   Dunstan, D. (PI), MacEachen, E. Manager’s perspectives on the role of co-workers in workplace reintegration processes. School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England Staff Seeding Grant Scheme. $8,398.44

2013-2014. MacEachen (PI). Saunders, R., Lippel, K., Tompa, E. Understanding the occupational health and safety inspection process in a changing labour market. Ontario Ministry of Labour, $96,538.002013. 

2013-2014. MacEachen, E. (PI), Tompa, E., Kosny, A., Stahl, C., O’Hagan, F. Systematic review of implementation of occupational health and safety regulatory levers. Ontario Ministry of Labour, $52,500.00.

2013-2015. Viikari-Juntura, E. (P.I.), Solovieva, S., Martimo, K.P., Kivekäs, T., Kausto, J., Virta, L., Laaksonen, M., Burdorf, A., MacEachen, E. Efficacy and effectiveness of occupational interventions in enhancing return to work: experimental and quasi-experimental studies. Academy of Finland. EURO 457,745 (CAD $615,000).

2013. Viikari-Juntura, E. (P.I.), Solovieva, S., Martimo, K.P., Kivekäs, T., Kausto, J., Virta, L., Laaksonen, M., Burdorf, A., MacEachen, E. Effects of temporary work modifications on work disability related to musculoskeletal pain and depressive symptoms. Finnish Work Environment Fund  EURO $220,000 EURO (CAD $300,000)

2013. Dunstan, D., MacEachen, E., Kosny, A. Testing a socially-enhanced workplace rehabilitation intervention. University of New England 2013 University Research Seed Grants. AUD $15,000 (CAD $15,800)

Representative Publications
  • Stahl, C., MacEachen, E., Lippel, K. Exploring ethical perspectives in the field of work disability prevention and return to work. Journal of Business Ethics.  E-pub ahead of print: DOI 10.1007/s10551-013-1661-y.
  • MacEachen, E., Kosny, A., Ferrier, S., Lippel, K., Neilson, C., Franche, R.L., Pugliese, D. The ideal of consumer choice: challenges with implementation in an Ontario injured worker vocational retraining program.  Disability and Rehabilitation. E-pub ahead of print:  DOI:10.3109/09638288.2013.771704.
  • Dunstan, D., MacEachen, E. Bearing the brunt: Co-workers’ experiences of work reintegration processes. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 23(1), 44-54.
  • Mansfield, L., MacEachen, E., Tompa, E., Kalcevich, C.A (2012) critical review of literature on experience-rating in workers’ compensation systems. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety 10 (1), 3- 25.
  • MacEachen, E., Lippel, K., Saunders, R., Kosny, A., Mansfield, L., Carrasco, C., Pugliese, D. (2012). Workers’ compensation experience rating rules and the danger to worker safety in the temporary work agency sector. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety 10 (1), 77-95.
  • Lippel, K., MacEachen, E., Werhun, N., Saunders, R., Kosny, A., Mansfield, L., Carrasco, C., Pugliese, D. Legal protections governing occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation of temporary employment agency workers in Canada: reflections on regulatory effectiveness. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 9(2), 69-90.
  • MacEachen, E. , Kosny, A., Ferrier, S., Lippel, K., Neilson, C., Franche, R.L., Pugliese, D. (2012) The ‘ability’ paradigm in vocational rehabilitation: challenges in an Ontario Injured worker retraining program, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 22(1), 105-117.
  • Tjulin, Å., MacEachen, E. (Co-PA), Edvardsson Stiwne, E., Ekberg, K. (2011) The social interaction of return to work explored from co-workers experiences. Disability and Rehabilitation, 33 (21-22), 1979-1989.
  • Kosny, A., MacEachen, E. , Ferrier, S., Chambers, L. (2011) The role of health care providers in long term and complicated workers’ compensation claims. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 21, 582-590.
  • Bernhard, D. , MacEachen, E., Lippel, K. (2010). Disability management experts and the impact on practice of jurisdiction. International Journal of Social Security and Workers Compensation, 2(1), 1-16.
  • MacEachen, E. , Kosny, A., Ferrier, S., Chambers, L. (2010). The ‘toxic dose’ of system problems: why some injured workers don’t return to work as expected, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20(3), 349-366.
  • MacEachen, E. , Kosny, A., Scott-Dixon, K., Facey, M., Chambers, L., Breslin, C., Kyle, N. , Irvin, E., Mahood, Q. and the Small Business Systematic Review Team (2010). Workplace health understandings and processes in small businesses: A systematic review of the qualitative literature. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20(2):180-98.
  • MacEachen, E., Polzer, J., Clarke, J. (2008) You are free to set your own hours”: Governing worker productivity and health through flexibility and resilience. Social Science & Medicine, 66(5), 1019-1033.
  • MacEachen E, Ferrier S, Kosny A, and Chambers L. (2007). A deliberation on ‘hurt versus harm’ logic in early-return-to-work policy. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 5(2), 41-62.
  • MacEachen, E., Kosny, A., Ferrier, S. (2007) Unexpected barriers in return to work: lessons learned from Ontario injured worker peer support groups. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation, 29(2), 155-164.
  • MacEachen, E, Clarke, J., Franche, R.-L., Irvin, E. (2006). The process of return to work after injury: findings of a systematic review of qualitative studies. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 32(4), 257-269.
  • MacEachen. E. (2005) The demise of repetitive strain injury in sceptical governing rationalities of workplace managers. Sociology of Health and Illness, 27(4), 490-514.