In this post I thought we could look at what you need to do to get a good mark in the NEBOSH Certificate in Environmental Management practical assignment (called in NEBOSH speak EC2).
The assignment pass mark is 60% and you complete the assignment on your own and as such there is no set duration, although NEBOSH state it should probably take around 3 hours.
There are two parts to the assignment these are completion of a NEBOSH provided review questionnaire followed by a report. 100 marks are available in total.
Read the Guidance
The first action you MUST complete is having a good look at the guidance available for the project. NEBOSH have provided a detailed guidance note on what is required that you can download from the NEBOSH website. Take a good luck at it – it is surprising when marking the EC assignments how many students clearly do not do this.
Now you need to choose a suitable workplace, as the assignment is relatively short (around 750 words for the report although it can be more) most types of workplaces will be suitable, even a relatively low environmental risk one such as an office. To satisfy yourself as to whether your proposed workplace is suitable I always recommend that you take a brief look at the questionnaire and see if you can answer most (let’s say three quarters) as either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If you find that you answer most questions ‘not applicable’ then it is highly likely that the workplace is not suitable for the review.
Now that you have chosen a suitable workplace you need to complete the review by using the NEBOSH supplied questionnaire. To complete this you will need to collect evidence by observation, document inspection and interview. Firstly, complete the questionnaire in draft, making sure that all questions are answered and there are justifications as to why you have answered the question ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘not applicable’. The student who get the best marks in this part of the assignment are the ones who provide detailed justifications for the answer to each question and do not just tick the relevant status box. Obviously, some questions will require more justifications than others, but there should always be at least a short paragraph in the comments box for every question.
When answering the questionnaire make sure that you have thought about your answer and it is correct. I have lost track of the amount of times that students tick ‘no’ to the question asking if there are any emissions to atmosphere from activities in the project area, when it is highly likely there is a boiler, standby generator or some form of transportation.
When the questionnaire is complete you then have the information to write the review report. This must follow a specific structure, which is:
Introduction – a good introduction will first cover the aims of the review and the methodology that was used to gain the information for it. You should then include a description of the activities in the project area (consider thinking about your workplace as a series of processes). Finally, you must state the potential vulnerable receptors that are near the project area, these might be rivers, housing or protected areas due to a sensitive habitat or species. The introduction as a whole is worth a maximum of five marks, so relative to other sections it should not be more than a reasonable size paragraph.
Executive summary – do not write this until you have finished the report. This section is a short summary of the whole report (introduction, main findings, conclusions and recommendations). Student’s often make the mistake of only summarising the main findings, to get the maximum of five marks available you need to summarise everything! This section should be about the same length as the introduction.
Main Findings – this is the key part of the report, which is reflected by the maximum of thirty marks on offer. If it is not the longest part of the report then you have not completed it correctly.
In this section you take what you have found from completing the questionnaire and write in more detail about it. We are looking at the strength and weakness of the organisation in comparison to the questions. You must not discuss items that you have not identified in the questionnaire and you must write in more detail about the key findings than you did in the questionnaire. I would recommend that you cover each of the ten questionnaire sections in your report and write what you have found for each. You MUST discuss the strength and weaknesses of the management system as there are 15 marks available just for doing this (at least one strength and two weaknesses). It is surprising how many students do not reference the organisation EMS.
Conclusions – this is probably the section that most candidates struggle with. The conclusions are not recommendations, so you do not need to mention what needs to happen to a weakness that you have discovered during the review – this occurs in the next section. What you should complete for a good conclusion is:
- A summary of the key strength and weaknesses taken from the main findings (must not be a new issue). A line or two for each will suffice.
- Next in a paragraph discuss the moral, legal and financial reasons as to why the weaknesses should be rectified – make it persuasive.
Recommendations – now for each weakness that you identified in the conclusions section you need to provide at least one recommendation. Present your recommendations in a table, the table must have the following column headings:
- Recommendation – you need to clearly and specifically identify what need to be completed to improve the weaknesses. Do not use generic statements such as ‘provide training’ you might understand what sort of training is required but the reader might be a non specialist who does not.
- Likely resource implication –roughly estimate the financial cost of implementing the recommendation. For some tasks that do not have a direct financial cost you could estimate the amount of time that it might take to complete.
- Priority – just simple statements such as ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’ should suffice, based on the risk of not implementing the recommendation.
- Review date – this is not the duration of the recommendation but the date it needs completing by. In my experience students sometimes provide review dates that are too short. Make sure that you are realistic and base the date on issues such as the priority and resource implications.
That is all the sections that you must complete. Once you have written your report it is a good idea to get someone else to check it over to spot spelling or grammatical errors.
Hopefully, what I have provided above will assist you in gaining the best mark you can hopefully above that magic 60% pass mark!
Unit EC2: Environmental Practical Application: Guidance and information for accredited course providers and candidates https://www.nebosh.org.uk/students/currently_studying/default.asp?cref=875&ct=2
John Binns BSc (Hons), MSc, MSc, MIEMA
With over 19 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.