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July 2013

Examiners Report
NEBOSH International
Diploma in
Occupational Health
and Safety (Unit IB)

Examiners Report


Unit IB: International control of
hazardous agents in the workplace

JULY 2013


Introduction 2

General comments 3

Comments on individual questions 4

2013 NEBOSH, Dominus Way, Meridian Business Park, Leicester LE19 1QW
tel: 0116 263 4700 fax: 0116 282 4000 email: website:

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 around 35,000 candidates annually and are offered
by over 500 course providers, with exams taken in over 100 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 Scottish Qualifications Authority

Where appropriate, NEBOSH follows the latest version of the GCSE, GCE, Principal Learning and
Project Code of Practice published by the regulatory authorities in relation to examination setting and
marking. 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.


Any enquiries about this report publication should be addressed to:

Dominus Way
Meridian Business Park
LE19 1QW

tel: 0116 263 4700
fax: 0116 282 4000

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.

Candidates should note that Examiners Reports are not written to provide sample answers but to
give examples of what Examiners were expecting and more specifically to highlight areas of under

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 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

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 there are candidates attempting the examination without
the necessary English language skills. More information on the IELTS standards can be found at
UNIT IB International control of hazardous agents in the

Question 1 Workers in a chemical plant are provided with gloves to protect against
the possible effects from the chemicals. In recent months, there has
been an increase in the number of hand and lower arm skin complaints
amongst the workers.

Outline possible reasons for this increase in skin complaints. (10)

This question related to Element IB3 of the syllabus and assessed candidates
knowledge of learning outcome IB3.2: Explain the various types of personal protective
equipment (PPE) available for use with hazardous chemicals, their effectiveness and
the factors to consider in their selection.

A broad range of reasons are possible for the increase in skin complaints. For
example, factors associated with the PPE itself (type, fit, specification changes,
damage etc) or factors associated with PPE use and management (defect reporting,
supervision of use, using for too long, training etc). Most candidates had few
problems with this question.

Question 2 (a) Identify the way in which lasers are classified according to their
hazard. (2)

(b) Low power lasers are widely used to read bar code labelled
products at checkouts in retail premises.


(i) the design features; (4)

(ii) the procedural controls (4)

that should be in place for the safe operation and maintenance of
the equipment.

This question related to Element IB7 of the syllabus and assessed candidates
knowledge of learning outcome IB7.2: Explain the effects of exposure to non-ionising
radiation, its assessment and control, including the special case of optical lasers.

Candidates did well on this question, being able to identify how lasers are classified
(classes 1 to 4) and some candidates also identified the international standards that
describe this. Design features included restriction of power (class 1) and use of
enclosures. Procedures covering maintenance and worker competence were easily

Section A all questions compulsory


Question 3 Outline control measures to protect against occupational exposure to the
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). (10)

This question related to Element IB5 of the syllabus and assessed candidates
knowledge of learning outcome IB5.2: Explain the assessment and control of
biological agents at work.

This question was not well answered. Many candidates did not answer the question
asked. The question was restricted to HIV exposure at work and some candidates
concentrated more on non-occupational exposure. They therefore missed items such
as the use of microbiological safety cabinets and pre-employment medical screening.
Other items were easily identified, such as covering existing wounds and sharps-
handling procedures.

Question 4 Animal testing is sometimes needed for classification purposes.

(a) Outline possible arguments against vertebrate animal testing. (6)

(b) Outline the alternatives that could be used instead of vertebrate
animal testing. (4)

This question related to Element IB1 of the syllabus and assessed candidates
knowledge of learning outcomes IB1.4: Explain the health effects of chemicals in the
workplace and IB1.5: Explain the principles of epidemiology and principles of deriving
and applying toxicological data to the identification of work-related ill-health.

Part (a) was generally well answered. Candidates were able to outline issues such as
ethics and the applicability of animal data to human exposure scenarios. Even so,
candidates should remember to outline arguments clearly and with sufficient depth.
For example, simply stating cost leaves considerable doubt as to what was intended.

Answers to part (b) were limited. Many answers demonstrated a lack of knowledge of
any alternative other than the Ames test and even this was sometimes confused with
other types of testing. Candidates could have outlined techniques such as read
across, QSAR and others identified in the syllabus.


Question 5 A worker on a production line is required to stand in front of his
workbench, which is 750mm deep and set at waist height. The worker
must frequently lift a 20kg item of equipment from his workbench on to an
unpowered roller conveyor which is behind it. The conveyor is set slightly
higher than the workbench (see diagram).

(a) Explain why the current method of working is unacceptable. (4)

(b) Outline practical measures that might be considered to reduce the
ergonomics related risk to the worker. (6)

This question related to Element IB9 of the syllabus and assessed candidates
knowledge of learning outcome IB9.2: Explain the assessment and control of risks
from repetitive activities, manual handling and poor posture.

This question was answered well by most candidates. The only issue here was that
some candidates did not give sufficient depth, especially in part (a), where an
explanation was required, rather than an outline. Candidates explained issues such
as the injury potential due to over-reaching and handling loads away from the trunk
but they were often unable to explain that handling loads in this manner increases
stress on the lower back. Whilst part (b) was better answered (reduction of bench
depth, adjust conveyer to same height as bench etc) some answers were too generic
and did not relate to the specific scenario. Some candidates had clearly envisaged a
different (but similar topic) question that had appeared on a previous question paper.

Question 6 Outline the possible functions of an occupational health service within a
large manufacturing organisation. (10)

This question related to Element IB11 of the syllabus and assessed candidates
knowledge of learning outcome IB11.3: Outline the management of occupational
health (including the practical and legal aspects).

This question was very well answered by candidates who had no problems outlining
functions such as medical examinations, absence monitoring, counselling and
advising management on health issues.


Question 7 In a chemical process, workers use a mixture composed of several liquid
substances. One of the components, designated DTJH, is classified as a
sensitiser under the GHS system. Table 1 below shows the average
personal exposure levels to DTJH for one worker measured over an 8-
hour day and Table 2 shows the exposure limits for DTJH.

Table 1

Task undertaken by worker
Duration of
Measuring out and adding mixture
to process vessel
15 minutes 140
Adding other components to the
1 hour 50
Supervision of mixing 2 hours 70
Transfer of product to containers 2 hours 80

Assume that exposure i s zero at all other times.

Table 2

Exposure limi ts for DTJH
Long-term exposure
limit (8-hour TWA limit
reference period)ort
Short-term exposure
limit (15-minute
reference period)
50 100

(a) Outline the process of hazard classification under the GHS
system. (2)

(b) Outline what is meant by sensitiser under the GHS system. (4)

(c) Using the information in Table 1, calcul ate the 8-hour time-
weighted average (TWA) exposure of the worker to DTJH. (6)
Your answer should include detailed working to show that you
understand how the exposure is determined.

(d) Using relevant information from Tables 1 and 2, explai n what
actions might be required by the employer to control exposure. (8)

This question related to Elements IB1 and IB4 of the syllabus and assessed
candidates knowledge of learning outcomes IB1.4: Explain the health effects of
chemicals in the workplace and IB4.1: Explain occupational exposure limits for
airborne harmful substances, the basis upon which they are established, and their
application to the workplace.

Most candidates did not appear to be aware of the principles of the GHS classification
process. This involves reviewing relevant hazard data (which may be gathered using
prescribed standard test methods) and comparison with GHS criteria. Furthermore,
candidates did not appear to understand the nature of sensitisers. The calculation
was much better answered, as most candidates are now quite used to this
methodology, easily arriving at the result of 48.125 ppm. Candidates were given
credit even if they made a mistake in the first part of the calculation but followed the

Section B three from five questions to be attempted

correct methodology in subsequent parts (carrying the error forward). As always, it is
essential to show detailed working to gain maximum marks. Part (d) was quite well
answered, in terms of the available control options, but many candidates failed to
explain the significance of the STEL and LTEL data from the tables.

Question 8 (a) Outline the possible impact of inadequate and inappropriate
lighting levels on safety issues in the workplace. (5)

(b) Outline the factors that should be considered to help ensure that
lighting in a workplace is adequate and appropriate. (15)

This question related to Element IB10 of the syllabus and assessed candidates
knowledge of learning outcome IB10.2: Explain the need for adequate and appropriate
lighting in the workplace, units of measurement of light and the assessment of lighting
levels in the workplace.

This topic was new to the syllabus for this sitting, having been transferred from Unit C
of the Diploma. This was not answered well (the lowest average mark on the paper),
mainly due to lack of breadth. Most candidates concentrated on only a few factors.

For part (a), as well as the obvious increased accident potential due to lack of light,
there were also impacts such as incorrect colour assessment leading to errors,
personal safety/security risks, interference with vision (disability glare) and failure to
perceive machinery movement (from stroboscopic effects). For part (b), a wide range
of factors could have been outlined, such as the type/nature of the work (task lighting),
avoidance of glare, use of natural light, workplace layout, provision for emergencies
(fire escapes) and maintainability.

Question 9 Trichloroethylene (commonly known as trike) is used as a solvent in part
of an industrial process.

(a) Identify the ill-health effects from exposure to trichloroethylene. (4)

(b) Outline the principles and methodology of the following air
monitoring techniques that might be used to assess a workers
exposure to trichloroethylene:

(i) stain tube detector; (4)

(ii) active personal sampling. (4)

(c) Outline a strategy to be used in the prevention or control of
exposure to trichloroethylene. (8)
Assume that trichloroethylene is essential to the process and
cannot be substituted.

This question related to Elements IB1, IB2 and IB4 of the syllabus and assessed
candidates knowledge of learning outcomes IB1.4: Explain the health effects of
chemicals used in the workplace, IB2.2: Explain elimination of risk or control
measures for chemicals which are hazardous to health and IB4.2: Outline the
strategies, methods and equipment for the sampling and measurement of airborne
harmful substances

This was the least popular question on the question paper but quite well answered by
those who attempted it. Trike can cause a range of effects such as drowsiness, skin
irritancy and addiction (trike sniffing). For part (b) there was occasional confusion
between active versus passive and personal versus general workplace sampling. The
question was phrased specifically to require active personal sampling (ie pump,
sampling head) for vapours. Dust sampling heads were clearly not relevant in this

For part (c), candidates were required to outline controls such as total enclosure,
ventilation and training. Most candidates had little difficulty with this part.

Question 10 Hospital nurses are at risk from work-related violence when they are
required to visit patients in their own homes.

(a) Outline a strategy that the hospital management should have in
place in order to manage work-related violence. (10)

(b) Describe a range of practical measures that the nurses can take to
minimise the risk of violence when making visits to patients. (10)

This question related to Element IB8 of the syllabus and assessed candidates
knowledge of learning outcome IB8.4: Explain the identification and control of work-
related violence/aggression with reference to relevant standards.

This was a popular choice and generally well-answered. Part (a) was less well
answered, largely due to confusion about what a strategy should contain. Instead,
whilst candidates could easily identify the need for a policy and allocation of
responsibilities, they sometimes resorted to effectively repeating detailed practical
measures that were more relevant to part (b).

Question 11 Dental practitioners often work alone or with small teams.

(a) Identify the health hazards to which dental practitioners may be
exposed. (10)

(b) Outline how the risks to a dental practitioner may be reduced. (10)

This question integrates multiple Elements and learning outcomes into a work-based
scenario, including elements IB2, IB3, IB6, IB7, IB8 and IB9 and assessed candidates
knowledge of the following learning outcomes:

IB2.1: Outline the factors to consider when assessing risks from chemicals which are
hazardous to health.

IB 3.1: Explain the purpose and operation of local exhaust ventilation and dilution
ventilation including assessing and maintaining effectiveness.

IB 6.1: Explain the basic concepts relevant to noise.

IB 7.1: Outline the nature of the different types of ionising and non-ionising radiation.

IB 7.2: Explain the effects of exposure to non-ionising radiation, its assessment and

IB 8.3: Explain the scope, effects and causes of work-related violence/aggression.

IB 9.1: Outline types, causes and relevant workplace examples of injuries and ill-
health conditions associated with repetitive physical activities, manual
handling and poor posture.

IB 9.2: Explain the assessment and control of risks from repetitive activities, manual
handling and poor posture.

This question was popular and quite well answered. Candidates could have
mentioned a wide range of hazards such as dental materials, sterilising agents,
biological agents (in clinical waste, body fluids), use of X-rays, UV and ergonomic
issues (posture). A very wide range of risk reduction measures were also possible
and candidates readily outlined these. Some candidates concentrated on only a
narrow range of issues and so limited the marks available to them.

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

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