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NEBOSH & Assessments

The NEBOSH Unit D Assignment

The NEBOSH Diploma Unit D Assignment

Personally, I feel that this is one of the most important parts of the diploma assessment. Whereas the exams test knowledge of the theory, Unit D checks that you can put that theory into practice.

Unit D is intended as a formative assignment, so should be completed alongside the other units. Therefore, it is essential that you engage with your tutor at an early stage to ensure that your work is heading in the right direction. In my experience, those who contact their tutor several times as their report develops normally do well, whereas those who don’t bother, or leave it close to the submission date, tend to fail.

The core of this assignment is split into three sections. First, you must analyse your organisation’s safety management system. Next, comes your ‘hazard identification’, and finally your two risk assessments.

For the safety management system analysis, those who give a detailed description of the current system, followed by a thorough evaluation of the gaps between that system and a known model such as OHSAS 18001, normally score well. Weaker analyses don’t actually analyse anything. Instead, they just provide a checklist or table containing little information aside from ‘Yes/No’ answers, which are unhelpful. All gaps must be explained and prioritised so that your lay reader can recognise their relative importance (and so that the examiner can see that you are competent enough to appreciate the key issues).

In the ‘Hazard identification’ section, many candidates seem unable to correctly identify hazards, a common mistake being to confuse hazards with risks. For example, candidates often say things like “slips, trips and falls” or “electrocution” are hazards, which they are not. This is not just a matter of terminology –  if hazards are not clearly identified it becomes very difficult to suggest appropriate control measures. It also has a knock-on effect in your risk assessments.

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Hazards must be prioritised. This can be done qualitatively or quantitatively but, whichever technique is used, the choice of priority must be clearly justified.

The ‘risk assessment’ section is the weakest area in most assignments. For instance, it is common to see so-called ‘CoSHH’ or ‘Noise’ assessments being attempted using the HSE’s basic ‘five steps’ method but with no sign of any measurement or calculation to determine the level of exposure, let alone any attempt to determine residual risk. Unsurprisingly, such assessments score poorly.

Marks are also awarded for the introduction, which must feature clear aims and objectives, plus a detailed methodology. Clear and well-considered conclusions are needed at the end of the report; these must summarise all the main findings and, crucially, must not introduce any new material. The conclusions lead on to recommendations, each of which must be prioritised and accompanied by a full cost benefit analysis. In their turn, the recommendations give rise to two action plans – one for the management system, the other based on the risk assessments. The NEBOSH guidance gives a useful template for the action plan.

The last thing that is written, but the first thing that will be read, is the executive summary. Many candidates struggle with this. There is no need to start by explaining what was done or how it was done, nor should you describe the organisation – all of that is just padding. You only have one page to get your point across, so use it to ‘sell’ your findings and recommendations. You must make a sound and persuasive business case.

In my experience, it is always clear when candidates have read the extensive guidance produced by NEBOSH. Those who have (and understand the course material) can gain very good marks. For those who fail to read the guidance properly or who don’t understand what they have learnt, one or more referrals await.

Its up to you, of course, but if it were me I would read the guidance carefully, do exactly what it says and make full use of my tutor.

Andrew Ashford

Andrew Ashford BSc (Hons), GDL, Cert Ed., CMIOSH

Long-standing RRC Associate Tutor, NEBOSH Principal Examiner (Unit A), Barrister (non-practising) and Safety Practitioner