Practical projects – the good, the bad and the ugly
I mark NEBOSH Environmental Diploma projects on a fairly regular basis, so I’d like to offer some hints and tips to help you achieve a good mark, based on my experiences of the sublime and the ridiculous!
First and foremost, I would advise you to spend quite a bit of time reading the project guide (officially called ED2 Workplace-Based Project). It is often plainly obvious when students have not done this. There is also useful information on report writing in Element 4 of the notes, including a recommended report structure.
Generally, your report should start with an executive summary – a short synopsis of the full report, from the introduction to the recommendations. But don’t write this until you have completed all the other sections!
Next is the introduction, which should describe the aims, objectives and methodology. You should also highlight what happens in the project area, perhaps something along the lines of a description of the process flow. Information on the site surroundings should also be included – for example, the location of nearby housing, rivers and designated sites such as SSSI. ‘Google maps’ using the satellite view can be useful, as is the Magic website (www.natureonthemap.naturalengland.org.uk)
This is followed by the body, or main findings of the report. This should be by far the longest part of your report, describing what you have found based on the completed questionnaire. A common mistake is for students to identify recommendations – these come later. For example, do not state an oil tank needs secondary containment – describe why the current situation is not acceptable in a reasonable amount of detail.
Let’s now consider the conclusions. From personal experience, this is the section most students struggle with. Although it is common for reports to have a combined conclusion and recommendations section, for this project it is better to separate these out. The conclusions should pick out from the main findings/body what you think is good and, probably more importantly, what you think is not so good, and summarise them. You should also state the moral, legal and financial reasons why the ‘not so good’ should be dealt with.
For each ‘bad’ conclusion you need at least one recommendation. For example, if you have concluded that the aforementioned oil tank does not comply with PPG 2 then you must offer at least one recommendation on how to bring the tank up to this standard. It is probably best to present your recommendations in a table, with columns denoting a task, responsibility, priority and timeframe. The tasks should not be too generic – instead of blanding stating ‘provide training’ you should specify what type of training should be provided, and for whom. Additionally, the timeframe is not how long it takes for the recommendation to be implemented but when it should be completed. The timeframe should also be realistic – some tasks take a few weeks and others take many months. It is unlikely that anything worth mentioning inyour report will be completed in a few hours or days.
Lastly – in terms of the report structure, at least – are the appendices. Unfortunately, you do not get any marks for these (unless you put the completed questionnaire in this section, which is advisable). You can provide the likes of a site plan or a map, but don’t include reams of procedures, polices, etc. as these should be summarised in the main findings anyway.
Finally, there is the completed NEBOSH questionnaire. The key here is to make sure you provide reasonable justifications for all of your answers to the questions. Outline what you have seen, or who you have talked to, to explain why you ticked yes/no/not applicable. If you are going to identify a question as not being applicable, then make sure that it is actually not applicable! For exam! I have lost count of the number of times I have seen students state that their project area has no air emissions, yet they have not considered transportation, air conditioning and even indirect emissions from electricity generation. Don’t just think normal operations: consider abnormal and emergency as well, where relevant.
As you can see, a few simple actions can help you improve your project mark, but if you need clarification, or any further assistance, don’t hesitate to contact one of your RRC tutors for the NEBOSH Environmental Diploma course.
John Binns BSc (Hons), MSc, MSc, MIEMA
With over 15 years’ experience working in environment management, John Binns BSc (Hons) MSc MIEMA is an experienced environmental tutor and consultant with knowledge of health and safety management.