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July 2011

Examiners’ Report

NEBOSH International Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety (Unit IA)

July 2011 Examiners’ Report NEBOSH International Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety (Unit IA)
July 2011 Examiners’ Report NEBOSH International Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety (Unit IA)

Examiners’ Report


Unit IA: International management of health and safety

JULY 2011

Examiners’ Report NEBOSH INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMA IN OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY Unit IA: International management of health




General comments


Comments on individual questions


2011 NEBOSH, Dominus Way, Meridian Business Park, Leicester LE19 1QW

tel: 0116 263 4700

fax: 0116 282 4000



The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health is a registered charity, number 1010444





NEBOSH (The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) was formed in 1979 as an independent examining board and awarding body with charitable status. We offer a comprehensive range of globally-recognised, vocationally-related qualifications designed to meet the health, safety, environmental and risk management needs of all places of work in both the private and public sectors. Courses leading to NEBOSH qualifications attract over 25,000 candidates annually and are offered by over 400 course providers in 65 countries around the world. Our qualifications are recognised by the relevant professional membership bodies including the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM).

NEBOSH is an awarding body to be recognised and regulated by the UK regulatory authorities:

The Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator (Ofqual) in England

The Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) in Wales

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) in Northern Ireland

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in Scotland

NEBOSH follows the “GCSE, GCE, VCE, GNVQ and AEA Code of Practice 2007/8” published by the regulatory authorities in relation to examination setting and marking (available at the Ofqual website While not obliged to adhere to this code, NEBOSH regards it as best practice to do so.

Candidates’ scripts are marked by a team of Examiners appointed by NEBOSH on the basis of their qualifications and experience. The standard of the qualification is determined by NEBOSH, which is overseen by the NEBOSH Council comprising nominees from, amongst others, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). Representatives of course providers, from both the public and private sectors, are elected to the NEBOSH Council.

This report on the Examination provides information on the performance of candidates which it is hoped will be useful to candidates and tutors in preparation for future examinations. It is intended to be constructive and informative and to promote better understanding of the syllabus content and the application of assessment criteria.

© NEBOSH 2011

Any enquiries about this report publication should be addressed to:

NEBOSH Dominus Way Meridian Business Park Leicester LE10 1QW


0116 263 4700


0116 282 4000


General comments
General comments

Many candidates are well prepared for this unit assessment and provide comprehensive and relevant answers in response to the demands of the question paper. This includes the ability to demonstrate understanding of knowledge by applying it to workplace situations.

There are always some candidates, however, who appear to be unprepared for the unit assessment and who show both a lack of knowledge of the syllabus content and a lack of understanding of how key concepts should be applied to workplace situations.

In order to meet the pass standard for this assessment, acquisition of knowledge and understanding across the syllabus are prerequisites. However, candidates need to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in answering the questions set. Referral of candidates in this unit is invariably because they are unable to write a full, well-informed answer to the question asked.

Some candidates find it difficult to relate their learning to the questions and as a result offer responses reliant on recalled knowledge and conjecture and fail to demonstrate any degree of understanding. Candidates should prepare themselves for this vocational examination by ensuring their understanding, not rote-learning pre-prepared answers.

Common pitfalls

It is recognised that many candidates are well prepared for their assessments.

However, recurrent

issues, as outlined below, continue to prevent some candidates reaching their full potential in the


Many candidates fail to apply the basic principles of examination technique and for some candidates this means the difference between a pass and a referral.

In some instances, candidates are failing because they do not attempt all the required questions or are failing to provide complete answers. Candidates are advised to always attempt an answer to a compulsory question, even when the mind goes blank. Applying basic health and safety management principles can generate credit worthy points.

Some candidates fail to answer the question set and instead provide information that may be relevant to the topic but is irrelevant to the question and cannot therefore be awarded marks.

Many candidates fail to apply the command words (also known as action verbs, eg describe, outline, etc). Command words are the instructions that guide the candidate on the depth of answer required. If, for instance, a question asks the candidate to ‘describe’ something, then few marks will be awarded to an answer that is an outline. Similarly the command word ‘identify’ requires more information than a ‘list’.

Some candidates fail to separate their answers into the different sub-sections of the questions. These candidates could gain marks for the different sections if they clearly indicated which part of the question they were answering (by using the numbering from the question in their answer, for example). Structuring their answers to address the different parts of the question can also help in logically drawing out the points to be made in response.

Candidates need to plan their time effectively. Some candidates fail to make good use of their time and give excessive detail in some answers leaving insufficient time to address all of the questions.

Candidates should also be aware that Examiners cannot award marks if handwriting is illegible.

The International Diploma in Health and Safety is taught and examined in English. Candidates are therefore expected to have a good command of both written and spoken English including technical and scientific vocabulary. The recommended standard expected of candidates is equivalent to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) level 7 (very good user). It is evident from a number of scripts that ther e are candidates attempting the examination without the necessary English language skills. More information on the IELTS standards can be found at

UNIT IA – International management of health and safety
UNIT IA – International management of health and safety

Section A all questions compulsory

Question 1

‘Perception’ may be defined as the process by which people interpret information that they take in through their senses.

Outline a range of factors that may affect how people perceive hazards in the workplace.


There are many factors that can affect the way that hazards are perceived in the workplace such as sensory impairment or health status; intelligence and/or mental capability; the effect of drugs or alcohol; inattention and boredom; the nature of the hazard which may not be readily detectable; environmental factors that may distract or confuse such as noise or poor lighting; interference by the use of personal protective equipment; the effect of inadequate or ambiguous information and training; the presence or absence of previous experience of, or exposure to the hazard; the effect of expectation following exposure to similar situations; sensory overload, work pressures, stress and fatigue and the pressure exerted by peer groups.

There were some reasonable answers provided for this question though some candidates did not refer to a sufficient number of factors to obtain a good mark. A few concentrated solely on factors connected with the senses when much more was needed.

Question 2

In relation to health and safety, outline the status and role of:

  • (a) ratified international conventions;


  • (b) ratified international recommendations.


There are approximately seventy conventions dealing with occupational health and safety and their status is comparable to that of multilateral international treaties. The conventions create binding obligations for countries that ratify them and any complaints of non-compliance can be examined by the ILCC. As for the role of ratified conventions, they lay down the basic principles to be implemented by ratifying States and their provisions are used as a basis for establishing national laws. They require States to report on their application of the conventions and the extent of the States’ compliance may be examined.

Ratified international recommendations are aimed at member States but do not have the binding force of conventions and may stand alone without being linked to any particular convention. The role of ratified international recommendations is to stimulate and guide national programmes for member States. Where linked to a convention, they will elaborate on its provisions and provide more detail on how it may be applied. This question was not well answered with few showing knowledge of either the status or role of conventions and recommendations. Only a few candidates mentioned that conventions were binding and formed the basis for national laws. When it came to part (b), the tendency was merely to repeat what had been offered for the first part of the question.

Question 3

A multi-site organisation has recently been audited. This has highlighted deficiencies in worker involvement in health and safety matters.

Outline recommendations to assist the employer to effectively consult with the workers on health and safety matters.


There are a number of recommendations that might be made to the employer in the scenario described including arranging for safety representatives to be appointed for each site, by election if required, and protecting them from dismissal or other measures prejudicial to them; ensuring that the safety representatives have access to appropriate resources to fulfil their functions and have time off their normal duties for training; setting up a formal safety committee, to meet on a regular basis to a set agenda and ensuring that the minutes of the meetings are circulated throughout the organisation; providing adequate information to the workforce on health and safety and consulting them when alterations to work processes are planned which will have health and safety implications; allowing access to representatives to all parts of the site to carry out inspections and arranging for them to meet representatives of the enforcing authority when they pay a visit to the site; ensuring there is a visible interest by management in health and safety matters with a readiness to have consultations on an informal basis with all workers; and setting up an individual appraisal system where health and safety concerns will be discussed on a par with other relevant issues.

Answers to this question were to a reasonable standard though a few candidates did seem to miss the words “consult with the workers” and adopted a top down approach stressing only the commitment that should be shown by management without suggesting how this might improve the consultation arrangements.

Question 4

The reliability of a safety critical system depends on a single component.


  • (a) ways











  • (b) Outline additional ways to increase the reliability of the safety critical system.


Good answers to part (a), and it was pleasing to note that there were many of these, would have outlined ways of reducing the likelihood of failure of the component such as operating it within its designed limits; burning in the component before placing it correctly in the system; planned replacement of the component before wear out; increasing its useful life by a planned programme of maintenance; and the initial design of and material specification for the component together with the use of quality assurance.

Answers to part (b) were also to a good standard with most outlining how the reliability of the safety critical system might be increased such as by the use of parallel components and standby systems and parallel redundancy; operational and detection protective systems to maintain the system within its design specification; the use of hazard analysis techniques to predict failure routes; the use of more reliable components to minimise failures to danger; the monitoring, collection and use of failure data; controlling exposure to inappropriate environments such as to humidity or corrosive atmospheres and obtaining components from appropriate sources.

Question 5

An organisation has decided to adopt a self regulatory model for its health and safety management system.

  • (a) Outline the benefits of adopting a self regulatory model.


  • (b) Outline the limitations of adopting a self regulatory model.


This question was generally well answered though there were a few candidates who did not seem to appreciate what was required. One of the important benefits of adapting a self regulatory model for a health and safety management system is that it is developed by those directly involved who have a better understanding of the issues involved, is specific to a particular site or industry, and can generate a strong sense of ownership with higher levels of compliance. The system is quicker to achieve than that which is dependent on national legislation, best practice can be adopted which often offers a cheaper and quicker means of addressing issues with the system as a whole being generally easier to adapt/ and/or update.

The limitations of adopting such as system, however, are that there is no umbrella standard to strive for and all those involved in the organisation may not operate within the self-regulatory rules with the possibility of difficulty arising in working with other companies or sites. The model may not always fit local circumstances, issues may be missed and there is a danger that this would result in lower levels of compliance with a general lowering of standards. One of the most important limitations, and this was not always noted by candidates, is that there will be no third party or independent auditing and as such the management system may not be valued as highly by stakeholders.

Question 6

Outline, using appropriate examples, the possible functions of a health and safety practitioner within a medium-sized organisation.


In answering this question, Examiners were looking to candidates to outline the possible functions of a health and safety practitioner in an organisation. These would include helping in the development, implementation and revision of health and safety policies; promoting a positive health and safety culture within the organisation; advising management on the requirements of health and safety legislation and giving advice on risks in the workplace and the appropriate control measures to be adopted; assisting management in setting performance standards and carrying out proactive and reactive monitoring of the standards when they had been introduced; investigating accidents and cases of ill-health; drawing up procedures for vetting the design and commissioning of new plant and machinery; carrying out or assisting in the audit and review of health and safety management systems; liaising with enforcement authorities and maintaining health and safety information systems. Answers were generally to a reasonable standard though some candidates did not pay particular attention either to the command word ‘outline’ or to the request for appropriate examples and consequently did not produce the detail that was required.

Section B – three from five questions to be attempted
Section B – three from five questions to be attempted

Question 7

A forklift truck skidded on an oil spill causing a serious injury to a visitor.

  • (a) Explain why the accident should be investigated.


  • (b) Outline the steps to follow in order to investigate the accident.


  • (c) Identify the possible underlying causes of the accident.


For part (a), most candidates were able to explain reasons for investigating accidents such as to identify their causes, both immediate and underlying; to prevent a recurrence; to assess compliance with legal requirements; to demonstrate management’s commitment to health and safety and to restore employee morale; to obtain information and evidence for use in the event of any subsequent civil claim or criminal prosecution; to provide useful information for the costing of accidents and for identifying trends and to identify the need to review risk assessments and safe systems of work. Answers to this part of the question were generally to an acceptable standard.

Better answers to part (b) were those that outlined the steps to be followed in a realistic chronological order including gathering information such as taking photographs and making sketches and taking measurements of the scene of the accident before anything was disturbed; obtaining any CCTV footage available; examining the condition of the fork lift truck and determining its speed at the time of the accident; determining the load that was being carried, the safe working load of the truck and any forward visibility problems with the load in place; inspecting maintenance records and defect reports; finding out the reasons for the oil spillage, the emergency spillage procedures in place and the reasons why they were not followed on this occasion; assessing the competence of the fork lift truck driver and examining the workplace to determine any contributing environmental factors such as the condition of the floor and the standard of lighting and interviewing relevant witnesses including the injured person if possible. When all the information has been gathered, it would need to be analysed to establish the immediate and underlying causes of the accident and a decision made on the measures to be put in place to control similar risks. The actions to be taken should be prioritised with responsibilities clearly identified and periodic reviews carried out to assess progress with the completion of the work. Many candidates tended to concentrate on the techniques to be used in interviewing witnesses and gave little attention to other factors such as the introduction of risk control measures and action plans. As a result too much detail was provided on too few steps with no increase in the number of marks that could be provided.

For part (c), candidates should have identified possible underlying causes such as inadequate or the absence of risk assessments; cultural and organisational factors and work pressures; poor visitor control on the premises; inadequate or poorly signed pedestrian routes and walkways; environmental factors such as lighting, floor conditions and spillage control; poor maintenance and defect reporting procedures; inadequate monitoring procedures; and a failure to train and supervise the workforce. Whilst most candidates produced reasonable answers for this part of the question, there were a few who were unable to differentiate between immediate and underlying causes and offered a number of immediate causes for which no marks were available.

Question 8 A chemical reaction vessel is partially filled with a mixture of highly flammable liquids. It is possible that the vessel headspace may contain a concentration of vapour which, in the presence of sufficient oxygen, is capable of being ignited. A powder is then automatically fed into this vessel.

Adding the powder may sometimes cause an electrostatic spark to occur with enough energy to ignite any flammable vapour. There is concern that there may be an ignition during addition of the powder.

To reduce the risk of ignition, an inert gas blanket system is used within the vessel headspace designed to keep oxygen below levels required to support combustion. In addition, a sensor system is used to monitor vessel oxygen levels. Either system may fail. If the inert gas blanketing system and the oxygen sensor fail simultaneously, oxygen levels can be high enough to support combustion.

Probability and frequency data for this system are given below.

Failure type/event



Vessel headspace contains concentration of vapour capable of being ignited


Addition of powder produces spark with enough energy to ignite vapour


Inert gas blanketing system fails


per year

Oxygen system sensor fails


  • (a) Draw a simple fault tree AND, using the above data, calculate the frequency of an ignition.


  • (b) Describe, with justification, TWO plant OR process modifications that you would recommend to reduce the risk of an ignition in the vessel headspace.


This was a popular question and in answering part (a) most candidates were able to supply a simple fault tree similar to that shown below and to calculate that the frequency of ignition would be 0.008/yr or once in every 125 years. Some forgot to insert the ‘and’ gates whilst a few did not convert the ignition figure into the required frequency.

Ignition 0.008/yr (once every 125 years)
Ignition 0.008/yr
(once every 125 years)
Oxygen > limit 0 02 Spark Flammable vapours 0.8 0.5 & Blanketing O2 sensor system fail
Oxygen > limit
0 02
Flammable vapours
O2 sensor
system fail
system fail
0 2/yr

In answering part (b), candidates could have included a description of any relevant modifications but were expected to select those which would make a greater contribution to reducing the overall risk. These could have included replacing the powder feed with a slurry in a conducting liquid; selecting and using materials with higher flashpoints to minimise the probability of a flammable atmosphere; and redesigning the nitrogen blanketing system to improve reliability. Some did refer to the possibility of introducing a blanketing system, suggesting they had not read the question with sufficient care.

Question 9

Outline the desirable design features of controls AND displays on a control panel for a complex industrial process aimed at reducing the likelihood of human error.


Desirable design features of controls include keeping their number to a minimum whilst ensuring a sufficient number to control the state of operation. A change of system state should only occur after operating a control and should require a positive action of the control with immediate feedback to the user. A system restart should again only occur after operating a control after a deliberate or non-intentional stop. A stop function should be easy to activate and override start and adjust controls. All controls should be visible, positioned and ordered logically so as to follow the process and be within easy reach of the operator while labelling, shape or colour can be put to effective use to ensure controls are easily identified. The type of control should be appropriate to the degree of control required, for example a lever may be more appropriate than a knob. Recognised conventions should be followed such as up for off, green for on and clockwise to increase. Controls positioned next to their respective displays are also desirable.

As for displays, they should be clearly visible and labelled and show steady state. They should also clearly indicate change, match expectations and attract the appropriate sense such as flashing to draw visual attention. It is important to use the appropriate type of display for the reading, ie analogue or digital, and ensure that all dials are in a similar position for “normal” operation. Markings on dials and the application of different colours can be used to indicate abnormal situations. Additional design features include shielding bulbs from strong ambient light; shielding glass dials from glare and placing displays against a panel of neutral colour. Displays should be kept to a minimum and safety critical displays should be separated from other displays.

This was not a popular question but those who chose to answer it generally did well outlining amongst other points how displays and controls should be kept to a minimum, be close together and work in a logical way. Some candidates, however, were sidetracked into the subject of ergonomics and gave long explanations on the design of chairs for operators for little reward.

Question 10


Outline the requirements for the development of and key objectives within the policy section of a health and safety management system such as that detailed in the ILO- OSH-2001 Guidelines on Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems.




Describe how the effectiveness of a health and safety management system could be measured.




Giving an example in EACH case, outline the format in







health and safety

performance could be presented clearly in a company


annual report.



The policy section of a health and safety management system should, following consultation with workers and their representatives, set out in writing a policy which should be specific to the organisation, appropriate to its size and the nature of its activities and be concise, clearly written and dated and made effective by the signature or endorsement of the employer or the most senior accountable person in

the organisation. The policy should be communicated and made readily accessible to all persons at their place of work, reviewed for continuing suitability and revised when seen to be necessary. Additionally it should be made available to relevant external interested parties as appropriate. The key objectives of the policy should be to protect the safety and health of all members of the organisation by preventing work related injuries, ill-health, diseases and incidents and these would be achieved by complying with relevant occupational health and safety national laws and regulations, voluntary programmes, collective agreements on occupational safety and health and other requirements to which the organisation subscribes. Achievement of the objectives would also be aided by ensuring that workers and their representatives are consulted and encouraged to participate actively in all elements of the organisation’s occupational safety and health management system with the aim of securing a continual improvement in the standard of the system. This was not a popular question and attracted few reasonable answers with not many candidates seeming to understand what ILO-OSH-2001 was or what it required. Most based their responses on either HSG65 or the components of a health and safety policy which was not relevant.

Answers to part (b) were to a better standard with most candidates able to describe how the effectiveness of a health and safety management system might be measured both by proactive and reactive measures. Proactive measures of performance involve carrying out activities such as safety inspections, tours and audits while reactive measures embrace amongst others the investigation of accidents and cases of ill- health and the preparation of incident rates.

Data gathered on health and safety could be presented in a company annual report by graphical representations such as pie charts and histograms displaying accident statistics; tabular numerical representations such as for example the number of risk assessments completed; and textual representations with brief summaries of departmental initiatives and case studies. Whilst there was the occasional reference to pie charts, very few managed to convince the Examiners that they had a good grasp of graphical, tabular and textual representations.

Question 11

An organisation should carry out a risk assessment before developing a safe system of work.

  • (a) Outline the factors that should be considered when carrying out a risk assessment.


  • (b) Give the meaning of the term ‘safe system of work’.


  • (c) Outline the issues to be addressed to effectively implement a safe system of work.


Factors to be considered when carrying out a risk assessment include amongst others the details of the activity or task to be performed; the equipment and materials to be used together with any information or guidelines provided by the manufacturer; the workers to be involved including their number, their experience and their status particularly if those considered to be more vulnerable will be affected; an identification of hazards associated with the activity or task and an assessment of their associated risks in terms of likelihood and severity with due reference being made to the organisation’s experience and past history; the adequacy of the control measures to be introduced including those required by law whether the provision of guards or personal protective equipment and any relevant environmental factors such as the location of the activity whether in a workshop or out of doors and the need to provide adequate standards of heating, lighting and ventilation; and the instruction, information and training that will have to be given to the workers involved before the start of the activity. Answers to this part of the question varied in quality and whilst many candidates were able to provide a reasonable number of factors, there were many who could not. There were many, too, who seemed to have difficulty in providing the required outline.

In answering part (b), a ‘safe system of work’ might have been given either as the integration of people, equipment, materials and the environment to produce an acceptable level of safety or as a method of carrying out a task in which hazards have been identified and eliminated, or risks have been reduced to an acceptable level. Some candidates missed the point that hazards had already been identified and dealt with.

For part (c), in order to effectively implement a safe system of work, an employer would need to address a number of issues such as arranging consultation with the workforce and deciding whether to introduce the system verbally or in writing; the number of persons involved who would need to be trained and the arrangements to be made for the training such as deciding on venues and dates and appointing the trainers; ensuring that management and supervisors had a complete understanding of their responsibilities in implementing the system; displaying details of the system in the workplace to ensure that it is easily accessible by those involved; deciding on a date and time for the implementation of the system taking into consideration shift changes, holidays and possible productivity issues; putting procedures in place for monitoring, reviewing and receiving feedback from the workforce on the system’s performance which would then enable improvements to be made on a continuous basis when these were seen to be necessary. Answers to this part of the question were limited in many cases because candidates did not seem to understand what was required and could offer only training and communication. The reference to effective implementation was not included.

The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health Dominus Way Meridian Business Park Leicester LE19
The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health Dominus Way Meridian Business Park Leicester LE19

The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health

Dominus Way Meridian Business Park Leicester LE19 1QW

telephone +44 (0)116 2634700 fax +44 (0)116 2824000 email