Dr. Ron Saunders

Senior Scientist

Dr. Ron Saunders is a policy expert with a passion for labour issues. He has coupled these two interests throughout his career, whether working in the public service, academia or applied research.

Work is a central part of our lives, and finding policies that promote worker health, job satisfaction and productivity is critical for both individual and societal well-being, he says.

Saunders came to the Institute in November 2008 as a senior scientist tasked with strengthening ties with policy-makers. In 2010, Saunders took on the role of director of Knowledge Transfer and Exchange, where he stayed until he retired from the role in December 2017. During his tenure as director of KTE, Saunders helped strengthen IWH's integrated KTE model, which provides for multiple types of engagement with stakeholders throughout the course of a research project. He also played a key role in expanding and deepening IWH’s relationships with its stakeholder networks. These include the employer and labour networks, which he established, and the Prevention Knowledge Exchange Group (PKEG), which he has nurtured into a lively gathering of Ontario’s prevention system representatives to exchange information about research and practice.

Before joining IWH, Saunders was with the Canadian Policy Research Network (CPRN), where he was the vice-president of research. His own research at CPRN centred on vulnerable workers, the school-to-work transition, access and quality issues in post-secondary education, and skills development and training. Prior to that, hespent 17 years in the Ontario public service, most notably as the assistant deputy minister of policy, communications and labour management services in the Ministry of Labour. There, he was instrumental in developing policies related to employment standards and labour relations.

Saunders also spent time in the academic world, having taught at the University of Toronto and, in 2001/2002, at Queen’s University School of Policy Studies. He currently holds an appointment as associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.

Current projects: 

Addressing essential skills gaps in an occupational health and safety training program

Measuring OHS vulnerability

Examining whether union construction firms have lower injury and illness rates than non-union firms

Selected Publications: 

Lay M, Saunders R, Lifshen M, Breslin C, LaMontagne A, Tompa E, Smith P. The relationship between occupational health and safety vulnerability and workplace injury. Safety Science, 2017; 94:85–93

Amick BC III, Hogg-Johnson S, Latour-Villamil D, Saunders R. Protecting construction worker health and safety in Ontario Canada: Identifying a union safety effect. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2015; 57(12):1337-1342

Smith P, Saunders R, Lifshen M, Black O, Lay M, Breslin C, LaMontagne A, Tompa E. The development of a measure of occupational health and safety vulnerability. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2015; 82:234-43 

Kosny A, Lifshen M, Smith P, Saunders R, Rhooms R. Prevention is the Best Medicine: Development of a work and health toolkit for new immigrants using settlement services in Ontario. Perspectives interdisciplinaires sur le travail et la santé, 2014; 16(2):1-14.

Saunders R. Risk and Opportunity: Creating Options for Vulnerable Workers. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Policy Research Networks; 2006.