Top-ten tips for maximum marks! NEBOSH Diploma Unit D


Following the amazing response we had to our previous advice on how to pass NEBOSH exams, we have decided to put together a post looking at what is perhaps the most daunting and least discussed of the NEBOSH Diploma modules: Unit D.

For this final part of the diploma, you are required to bring together the knowledge and understanding you have gained in NEBOSH Units A, B and C, all of which are assessed by exam, to undertake a detailed health and safety review of a workplace or organisation and then produce an action plan to improve performance. While this might initially sound intimidating, with the right planning there is really nothing to stop you scoring highly and achieving maximum success in this unit!

Therefore, without further ado, we present to you the RoSPA Top Ten Tips for Success in Unit D:

  1. Plan for Success

Before you even pick up a pen, think carefully about the workplace or organisation you are choosing to base your research assignment on. It should be large enough to provide an opportunity for a review of the health and safety management system as well as providing a sufficiently wide range of hazards in the areas covered by Units B and C as these will be identified and prioritised in your assignment. If the organisation you have chosen is very large, why not make your study more manageable by looking at a limited department or division rather than the entire organisation?

Once you have pinpointed the organisation you wish to use, start by making sure you fully understand the brief and then come up with a plan of how you intend to approach your study, which you can then discuss with your NEBOSH tutor. While they will not be able to read and amend your review, they should be able to tell you whether or not your proposal has sufficient depth and breadth of content to meet the NEBOSH Diploma level, and let you know whether you are heading in the right direction!

  1. Style and Substance

Much like the advice we gave you on crafting a killer answer for your NEBOSH exams, the style in which you present your assignment is going to have a dramatic impact on your success in Unit D. It goes without saying that you should be writing in a formal style as expected for a assignment to management. Having said that, the assignment should be as easy to read as possible, so resist the temptation of using unnecessary technical jargon when a clear and concise explanation will suffice – remember, it’s a human being and not a machine that will be marking your work!

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the purpose of the assignment is to demonstrate that you have a firm understanding of the subject matter, so think about how you choose to present information. Sometimes bullet points or a table will be enough to convey a point, sometimes not – the important thing is to organise your work into paragraphs so that chunks of text are avoided and to try and think outside the box in terms of presentation in order to keep your assignment stimulating and reader friendly.

  1. Think Marks!

 Even though Unit D is a written assignment rather than an exam, it is still good practice to approach the assignment as you would a test paper. This means you should be aware that marks are awarded both for the range of factors considered and the quality of treatment and so you need to ensure an appropriate balance between range and depth. It is important to remember that a large range of factors treated superficially will not be rewarded with high marks – think quality not quantity!


  1. Executive Summary

For those a little confused about the Executive Summary, you can simply think of it as an overview of the important points of your work, with a summary of the main conclusions and recommendations of your review.

It should be targeted at a person who is not necessarily an expert in the field and very briefly state the implications of your review for the organisation; including any costs involved and inform the reader of the proposed cause of action and the benefits – all presented in a non-technical, reader-friendly style, suitable for a busy senior manager to read at any time. If in doubt, the golden rule is: Be simple but persuasive!

The Executive Summary should be written after the rest of your assignment and then inserted at the beginning. It is also the only part of the assignment that is length limited and should be no longer than one side of A4 using single-spaced Arial font. 10% of the marks available for the Executive Summary will be deducted for text covering up to an additional one-quarter of a page, with a further 10% for each additional quarter of a page submitted as part of the executive summary, so always be sure to plan ahead and keep it succinct if you don’t want to drop unnecessary marks.

  1. Make a strong impression

They say that first impressions count, and the introduction to your assignment is no different! Your introduction should clearly set out your aims and objectives, which will help orientate the reader as well as keeping you on track. A good introduction will also help when it comes to writing your conclusion, providing you with a clear benchmark of objectives to refer back to and evaluate your success.

Your introduction should also include a clear description of your methodology, including your methods of research, as well as providing a description of your chosen organisation or workplace in order to set the context for the assignment. This should include the size and nature of the organisation, the employment profile, the work patterns and production schedules employed, as well as any special situations that are likely to have an impact on health and safety. If you have chosen a very large company (see point 1) you should also state which department or division you will be looking at.

You are also required to outline legislation and case law relevant to the organisation and this can be included in your introduction. However, remember you are being marked on your ability to put these in the context of the development of an effective health and safety management programme. An exhaustive list of statutes, regulations etc is not expected.


  1. Know your Hazards

As part of the assignment, you are required to identify at least 15 significant hazards from across a range of categories and prioritise them. You can then justify the choice of each hazard by using a system to assign levels of importance to each of the hazards identified. Remember: A full risk assessment is not needed on each hazard.

Once you have identified these hazards (which should be across a range of categories relevant to the organisation), you then need to prioritise two as being high priority – one physical hazard and the other relating to health and welfare. As a rule you should consider physical hazards as those covered in Unit C and health and welfare hazards as those covered in Unit B – if in doubt, feel free to refer back to our useful NEBOSH exam guides.

  1. Specify Risks

The risk assessments that are required for the unit must be completed on the chosen hazards you have previously identified. You then need to evaluate the effectiveness of the organisation in controlling the risks and offer proposals to further control the hazard and reduce the risks – be sure to make use of any existing data for hazards that have already been quantified, for example noise control.

Also, make sure to briefly describe the methodology you adopted for each risk assessment and be sure to reference any relevant publications, legislation, ACOPs and other technical documents you consulted.  Remember – if you’re striving for high marks you need to avoid presenting a generic risk assessment model when a specific risk assessment is required due to the nature of the hazard!

  1. Summing up

It almost goes without saying, but your conclusion should offer a concise summary of your findings in the main body of the assignment – this is not the time to introduce any new ideas!

A good conclusion should start by referring back to the aims and objectives you set out at the beginning of your assignment, evaluating how well they were achieved. The rest of the conclusion should follow on logically from the findings in the main body, being sure to cover every finding in the main assignment. A good tip is to print out a rough copy of the assignment and highlight all of your findings – that way you can be sure you don’t miss any.


  1. Recommendations Vs Action Planning

 Like your conclusion, recommendations should lead on logically from your assignment and not come as a complete surprise to the reader. Recommendations need to be justified, complete (i.e. cover all the main findings), practical and include a cost benefit analysis – in other words what the organisation will gain set against the costs involved.

Recommendations also need to be prioritised – for example you could look at which hazards represent the highest risk, or which will be the easiest, or most cost efficient to implement. However you choose to prioritise your recommendations, make sure you explain the system you have used.

Action planning on the other hand is the tool through which your recommendations will be implemented. It is not a list of recommendations. Your action plans should include actions that need to take place to reduce the risks associated with the hazard, outlining the person responsibility for implementing the action, cost and timescale. Remember – staff time costs money!

While there is no set format to present your action plans, a table is often the most successful format because it is easy to see that all of the requirements have been included.

Finally, try and make your targets SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) and don’t forget to address every recommendation with an action plan – there’s no point in making a recommendation then not doing anything about it!

And last but not least…

  1. …Relax!

Unit D is all about bringing together the knowledge and understanding you have gained during units A, B and C. As long as you plan ahead and manage your time effectively there’s no reason you shouldn’t achieve success in the NEBOSH Diploma.

If in doubt speak to your tutor– and of course, feel free to consult our helpful NEBOSH past paper guides to help refresh your memory. Full NEBOSH guidance on the Unit can be found HERE.

What next?

RoSPA have produced a FREE NEBOSH ebook providing tips and advice for maximum success! Sign up to SafetyMatters newsletter to receive your copy.

Follow RoSPA’s brand new Twitter feed dedicated to workplace safety, @RoSPAWorkplace for all the latest NEBOSH revision guides, hints and tips!
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