Finally, the Safety Institute of Australia has got its act together and has contracted someone who has produced an OHS magazine that, mostly, satisfies the needs of its members and the aims of the Institute.
The first edition of OHS Professional landed in the SafetyAtWorkBlog letter box this morning and, it is fair to say that the involvement of an international publishing company, LexisNexis, is all over this magazine. The format clearly owes itself to other publications in the LexisNexis Australia stable, such as Lawyers Weekly, HR Leader and Risk Manager.
By and large, the magazine seems better for not having an OHS professional as the editor. Mark Phillips places the magazine in the publishing context rather than in the past where such magazines were squeezed into the OHS context or, even worse, made to fit into some agenda of a professional association. OHS Professional is devoid of the institutional baggage and infighting that has occurred in the past in the Institute. However, this is the first edition and the Letters page is yet to be operational.
There are some tweaks that could improve the magazine or address some bugbears. There is a book review on the latest Andrew Hopkins book. The name of the reviewer is not specified and described only as “an SIA member”. Clearly identifying the author is important to establishing the independence of any review.
This is particularly relevant in this case as the retail outlet of the Hopkins book is listed as Futuremedia. The founder of Futuremedia is Kerry Wonka. The Futuremedia website lists a professional membership with the SIA and Kerry Wonka is identified as a committee member of the SIA New South Wales Division. The absence of a reviewer’s name allows for speculation that the review could be an advertorial. The simple inclusion of a name would establish additional credibility to the very good review of an important book.
Several articles would seem to be familiar to readers as similar content has appeared in other Australian safety publications such as Safety Solutions, a free trade publication that is widely circulated, and various online OHS websites. If any magazine is to survive in the modern knowledge industry it must differentiate itself from not only other magazines but other information sources. OHS Professional has the basic structure right and it would be great to see its content develop into an independent source of important OHS information that does not rely on the cycle of SIA conferences and events.
As a for instance, National Safety magazine (pictured right) has established itself as an independent source of authoritative OHS information under the editorship of Helen Borger. National Safety reduced its reliance on being a magazine for members of the National Safety Council of Australia and this has helped broaden its readership and to survive where many other OHS magazines, such as CCH’s OHS Magazine (pictured below) and Niche Publishing’s Complete Safety, folded.
As with other SIA publications, the enthusiasm that comes from a new source of OHS information continues to be let down by an unfriendly website. There seems to have been no coordination between the SIA’s website developer and the hard copy publishers. Anyone visiting the SIA website would be unaware that it publishes much at all. More prominence is given to its partner organisations than to the important and tangible benefits of becoming a member, such as high quality publications.
When one finally finds the link in the drop down list for SIA magazines, the only article relates to the SIA’s relationship to its previous publisher who cancelled the contract at very short notice!!
The relationship with LexisNexis Australia is crucial to building a contemporary relevance for the Safety Institute of Australia, an aim that the SIA has regularly stated publicly but the Institute is hampering these good efforts with poor online support and inadequate promotional coordination.
In this first week of November 2009, SafetyAtWorkBlog has received two SIA publications that have great potential. The sad part is that this has occurred in the week after Safe Work Australia Week, the most active OHS week in Australia. This seems a major missed opportunity for the Safety Institute and it is suggested that their promotional coordinator, whoever it may be, should be sat down and had a long talking to.
Having said this, the next edition of OHS Professional will be keenly anticipated. If it is as good as the first edition, it will be a shame it is not published more frequently.
Disclaimer: an article by Kevin Jones is in this edition of OHS Professional. Kevin also works part-time as a content provider for LexisNexis but has no involvement with the publications. Kevin has written for National Safety magazine a couple of times over the last ten years and he is a Fellow of the Safety Institute.