Writing for OHS CANADA Magazine

Readers of OHS Canada Magazine frequently write for the magazine, as do professional journalists and freelance writers. If you have a story idea, here are the general guidelines for publication, as well as tips on how to plan and structure an article for our magazine. (We strongly suggest that you contact the editor (jlian@ohscanada.com) to discuss any story ideas before going ahead with the project.)

About OHS CANADA

OHS CANADA is the leading Canadian magazine for people who make decisions about health and safety in the workplace.

Contents include features dealing with trends, new developments and emerging issues in health and safety, as well as case studies and profiles of innovative and successful programs. Departments deal with specific issues in accident prevention, ergonomics, law, workers’ compensation, occupational hygiene, the environment and training. News, a humour column and a back-page opinion piece round out the contents.

The majority of articles in the magazine are written by experts in the various fields that make up occupational health and safety. Some are written by professional journalists and freelance writers, almost always on an assignment basis.

Unsolicited articles, though welcome, are not often used because issues and story mix are planned well in advance. Submission of story ideas and/or outlines is usually a better route to publication. Telephone and e-mail inquiries to the editor are welcome.

Articles accepted for publication in OHS CANADA are edited for length, style and clarity. An edited version is returned to the author for verification of accuracy before publication.

OHS CANADA acquires first North American serial rights, reprint rights and electronic rights unless a different arrangement has been specifically made. Authors retain copyright and moral rights in the work.

General guidelines

The best way to become familiar with our editorial requirements is, of course, to read the magazine (or browse the "Virtual Issue" section on this web site).

Articles must address substantive occupational health and safety issues and offer useful insight, perspective or guidance to our readers. This is the key requirement.

Note that OHS CANADA uses a highly readable, consumer magazine style. The use of academic conventions, footnotes and numbered references should be avoided (or at least kept to a bare minimum).

Authors must be qualified (academically or by experience) to discuss the issues dealt with in the article, or draw their content from such qualified people.

All content must be technically and/or scientifically accurate, and the author must be prepared to give sources for fact-checking and verification.

Articles must adhere to the highest standards of journalistic fairness, especially if quotes or attributions from individuals and organizations are used.

Articles cannot promote a specific company or product, or mention specific products or services by name except in the context of a bona fide review of a number of similar products or services.
Articles submitted to OHS CANADA must be original, previously unpublished work, and must not currently be under consideration by any other publication.

Features

Each issue of OHS CANADA includes a number of features – one of them the “cover story” linked to the cover illustration. Each feature is a fairly in-depth examination or analysis of a specific topic. A typical feature is about 3,000 words, but length may vary from 2,500 to 3,500 words. Features may be somewhat philosophical in nature, and may include the history behind the subject, an analysis of its impact and meaning, and/or an examination of varying views on the subject.

Features tend to be wider and more general in scope than Department articles (see below). If the feature material includes lists, point-form examples or other closely related “capsules” of information, consider including these as sidebars.

Readability and interest are particularly important qualities in feature articles. When you write a feature for OHS CANADA, try to picture your reader leaning back in his or her chair to enjoy the article. We want the reader to come away with a satisfied feeling of having been thoroughly informed, brought up to date or given useful food for thought.

Illustration and visuals

From the beginning, when you are in the planning stages, try to keep visual presentation in mind.

Lists, statistics and numerical comparisons (if they are important to the article) are often best handled in a chart or graph. Some descriptions of objects or locations lend themselves to a labeled diagram. Processes or systems can sometimes best be described by a flow chart. (A sketch or even the raw information is all we need; our graphics department can produce the final product.)

For features, photographs are often the best kind of illustration. A photo can show the impact that the story content has on people, it can establish mood and tone, and it can capture the essence of a relationship. When writing your feature, consider who is impacted by the subject you are discussing, which individuals are involved, or which people are representative of the those affected.

Supplied, professional quality photos are welcome (but be careful about copyright and photo credits); however, if you have a good photo subject, we can often supply a photographer to produce original material for the article.

Departments

OHS CANADA has a number of “departments” or regularly covered subject areas:

• Accident Prevention, dealing with the prevention of acute-injury-causing accidents;
• Law file (usually written by a lawyer) dealing with legal issues;
• Ergonomics;
• Occupational Hygiene (usually written by a certified hygienist);
• Health Watch;
• Workers’ Compensation.

Articles in the departments should be about 1,500 words long, but may be somewhat shorter or longer if the subject matter demands it. The subjects should be very specific, fairly narrow and well defined. In the departments, we look for information that can be immediately applied by the reader, and it should be to-the-point, specific and practical.

Think of a department article as a briefing for the reader on your particular subject. (Contrast this with features, which deal with larger and broader issues, can be more philosophical, and may contain more background information.) The departments are where we would often expect to see point-form lists on how to do something, checklists of key concerns, and descriptions of specific situations followed by a what-it-means-to-you and/or a how-to-put-it-into-practice conclusion. Line drawings and diagrams illustrating key points of the article add greatly to the presentation.

A good rule of thumb for producing an interesting and readable Department article is to structure it along the following lines: Here’s How to, Guess What’s New In, Bet You Thought That, or Bet You Didn’t Know That.

Writing for our audience

Readers of OHS CANADA are professionals who have responsibility for the health and safety of others. They need and demand timely, accurate and relevant information to help them understand issues and keep abreast of new developments. Many of our readers use the magazine as a means of continuing professional development. Readers include the following:
• health & safety directors, managers or supervisors,
• supervisors, senior or line,
• health and safety committee members,
• human resources / industrial relations staff,
• nurses, hygienists, physicians,
• ergonomists, hygienists, loss control specialists,
• maintenance, engineering and environmental staff,
• consultants, and
• labour representatives.

Keep these readers in mind when you write for OHS CANADA. Note that while the readers are professionals, they are probably not experts in all of the many fields that make up oh&s. (A highly qualified supervisor probably isn’t an expert ergonomist; a hygienist probably knows very little about system safety, and so on.) This means that you should always write for the broad cross section of the audience. The article dealing with a specialty should be interesting to the specialists in that field, of course, but it should also be written for all the OHS people outside that specialty area.

Keeping the “Canada” in OHS CANADA

Try to keep a national perspective and a Canadian perspective. Choose examples from various provinces and from the federal jurisdiction. While Ontario represents over 40 per cent of the population, we have to avoid over-reliance on “in Ontario, for example...” when talking about standards or legislation. For stories that are specific to one province, consider broadening the perspective by discussing the implications for other provinces (whether or not they will follow suit with a new development, for example) and by comparing and contrasting practices and legislation in the other jurisdictions.

Presentation

Articles, outlines and/or material may be emailed to the editor at jlian@ohscanada.com.