My aim isn’t to give you the NEBOSH answers as such, instead I use my experience as a trainer to give you top-tips for NEBOSH exams as a whole, plus points for inclusion when answering specific NEBOSH questions.
Firstly, if you’re due to take a NEBOSH exam in the near future, here’s some general advice, all of which and more is covered in the NEBOSH Revision course. You should approach the exam with an action plan, which should focus on how to get the maximum number of marks from those available for each answer. As this can only be achieved if each question is attempted, time management must be at the forefront of your plan. Time should be allocated by dividing the 120 minutes for the exam as a whole, by the 100 total marks available. This leaves you with approximately 9 minutes for each 8 mark question - plus some spare time to revisit questions you feel you haven’t fully answered.
Bear in mind, most marks will be achieved in the first few minutes used to answer each question. So, when the time you have allocated to each question has expired, MOVE ON to the next question. You can find out more about exam timings in the NEBOSH exam tips post.
Other elements of this action plan include ensuring you have everything you need to answer the questions e.g.
- A pen that you can hold comfortably, plus spares
- A watch
- A highlighter pen (for key words in questions – see the command word guide post for more on this)
- Reading glasses if you need them
- Sweets for that sugar rush that might be needed part way through.
Also, leave your rough work on paper; don’t cross it through as it just might gain you a valuable extra mark.
Now, on to the questions:
1.) Firstly, it might be an advantage to explain what is meant by an audit, as this will assure the examiner (and yourself) that you have an understanding of the basics.
From HSG65, an audit is: The structured process of collecting independent information on the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the total H&S management system (Risk Control System) and drawing up plans for corrective action.
A tabular approach would make the reading of your answer easier for the examiner and would focus your mind on the action verb Identify (select and name) and the question’s aims.
Advantages of using an internal auditor include pre-existing knowledge of critical areas of concern; the ability to easily and quickly find information; the ability to drill down into key areas; possible cost savings. Disadvantages may however include a lack of awareness of standards required by legislation or other external bodies; a lack of impartiality; a possible reluctance to create problems for management and the inability to review with a fresh pair of eyes.
External health and safety auditors are experienced and bring both their expertise and an independent view not influenced by internal pressures and loyalties. This independence is considered best practice by the International Labour Organisation, and may be a requirement when tendering for work. External auditors are also likely to be aware of best practice across sectors.
There may be problems relating to the external auditor’s lack of knowledge of the business, which may result in more people being asked more questions and therefore greater disruption to the business. Other disadvantages include the external auditing system employed may not fit the organisation; additional training may be required and additional costs accrued.
(If you’re interested in related reading, you can read more about the pros and cons of internal and external auditors in this recent post).
2.) In answering this 2 part question attention should be given to the KEY words, in this case the action verb Explain and the fact that examples are required in the answer.
The term Hazard is commonly termed as “the potential of a substance, person, activity or process to cause harm.”
Typical Hazards may include such things as:
- Working at height
The term Risk means the probability/likelihood that an unwanted event will occur and the possible severity in terms of injury or damage should it occur. It would be best practice for the exam to utilise the already recognised hazards as the basis for the answer to this element e.g.
- Falling from height
The second part of this question may again link to the hazards and risks already identified to maintain continuity if it is thought applicable. My recommendation would be to concentrate on the Chemical hazard as this would allow you to quote such things as:
- Slow effects
- Lack of training
- Inappropriate warnings
- Over familiarity.
3.) A question such as this asking you to ‘Outline’ something requires you to cite a number of areas of influence, with fairly minimal descriptive responses – therefore a broad brush approach is appropriate. Merely outlining the powers of the HSE will not be enough to adequately answer this question, instead you must read the question carefully and answer accordingly.
The HSE can influence the health and safety performance of an organisation in the following ways: (For clarity I’ve used bullet points, but remember that in an exam your answer should be presented in a paragraph.)
- Conducting campaigns (reducing noise at work and campaigns aimed at particular business sectors)
- Providing information (guidance notes, leaflets, codes of practice, statistics)
- Carrying out inspections
- Carrying out accident investigations
- Investigating following complaints
- Provide advice on interpretation of laws
- Issue improvement notices
- Issue prohibition notices
- Prosecute those failing to comply with legislation
- Interpret accident statistics
- Provide feedback on accident trends
- Provide feedback on ill health trends.
4a.) Again, consider the action verb for each part of the question. Part a. asks you to identify two specific work activities for which a permit-to-work might be needed, so simply choose two from the following: work in confined spaces, work in flammable atmospheres, work on live electrical equipment, hot work and maintenance work on dangerous process plant or production machinery.
4b.) The answer to the second part of the question should be based on standardised formats in general use throughout industry, so if this is not something that you are exposed to in the workplace, a common sense approach should be adopted giving consideration to the “Hazards” and “ Risks” associated to one of the answers from the first part of the question and should include issues such as:
- Work to be completed
- Positive ID of the plant/location to be worked on etc.
- The person allocated to the task
- The person in control of the plant/location
- The controls in place e.g. lock offs etc.
- Potential hazards that remain
- The precautions to be taken against these (e.g. PPE)
- The time/date of issue and commencement of work
- The duration of the permit
- The Safe System Of Work (SSOW) to be followed
- Statement that all measures for safety are in place (signed)
- Signature of competent person carrying out SSOW under permit
- Provision for hand-back after work completed
- Work completed signature
- Cancellation signature.
5.) This is a straightforward question on the fundamental aspects of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and as such should not hold any fear for the vast majority of candidates. Full marks would NOT be obtained by only quoting Sections 2.1 and 2.2 a – e as set out below, instead you must include the other elements which form the rest of section 2 – highlighted in bold below. Also, remember that as the question uses the action verb “state” you will need to expand on the list below, as bullet points alone will not accrue full marks.
1. General duty to ensure health, safety and welfare
2. Provision and maintenance of plant and Safe Systems of Work (SSOW)
3. Safe use / handling / storage and transportation of substances and articles
4. Provision of information, instruction, training and supervision
5. Safe place, access and egress
6. Safe and healthy working environment / welfare
- Health and safety policy – organisation and arrangements
- Consult with safety representatives
- To form a safety committee (when requested, in writing, by two or more TU appointed safety representatives)
So that’s it, my first contribution to our series of NEBOSH past paper question and answer guides. I hope that you’ve found it useful and wish you all the best in your forthcoming NEBOSH exams.
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