The NEBOSH Certificate Practical Assessment
The final element of the certificate assessment requires the candidate to carry out a workplace inspection and write a short report to management. This is to test that the knowledge gained during the course can be applied in practice. Candidates don’t normally fail this part through want of knowledge; the reason candidates fail is often because they haven’t read the guidance, leading to silly, avoidable errors.
RRC has produced comprehensive guidance on how to complete the practical assessment. This is really helpful for distance learners, who do not have the benefit of being able to discuss things with a tutor face-to-face. However, experience has shown that many candidates apparently fail to read this guidance and therefore fail to achieve a pass. So, the starting point has to be to read the guidance!
Not only does the guidance offer advice on how to go about doing the assessment, but it also provides you with samples of completed observation sheets to examine. Obviously, you should not copy these, but they are a really useful resource that shows how it should be done.
One of the most common errors when completing the observation sheets is to write down a hazard but to fail to write down a matching consequence. For example, a candidate might write something like “overflowing waste paper basket”; this is fine as a description of a hazard, but what is the consequence? If the consequence isn’t written down then no marks can be awarded. Therefore, the candidate would need to write something like “overflowing waste paper basket – risk of fire”. This is not difficult to do, but it is surprising how often candidates fail to do it.
Another, perhaps even more basic, error is to not identify a hazard at all. Some candidates will write down risks instead of hazards – this will not gain you a mark. Examples include “working at height” or “manual handling”, neither of which are hazards as such.
So far as the report is concerned, one of the greatest sins is to simply try and duplicate the observation sheets. The idea of the management report is to bring only the most serious issues to the attention of management – after all, who wants to be burdened with trivia! The less serious issues need not be mentioned. This tests that you can identify urgent matters that merit immediate attention from senior management.
Candidates should make reference to breaches of the law – there are five marks for this. It is not enough, however, simply to name a breach – candidates must indicate that they understand the reasons for the breach.
Another frequent failing is a lack of persuasion. A persuasive case can be made by referring to the moral, legal and economic consequences of failing to act, or to the benefits of doing so.
One other area where candidates fail to gain marks is in the conclusions. A quick look at the marking scheme (yes, the marking scheme is available to you) will show that 15 marks are available. Conclusions must summarise the findings and must tell management what they need to know in order to motivate them to act on the recommendations; it is unlikely that you will score well if you only write five lines!
Passing the certificate practical (which has a pass mark of 60%) requires a sound knowledge of basic principles as well as the ability to identify significant issues and to report them to management in a persuasive manner. If you can do all this, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t gain a very good mark.
Andrew Ashford BSc (Hons), GDL, Cert Ed., CMIOSH