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January 2009

Examiners’ Report
NEBOSH National
Diploma in
Occupational Health
and Safety - Unit A
Examiners’ Report



Unit A: Managing health and safety



Introduction 2

General Comments 3

Comments on individual questions 4

© 2009 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

T(s):exrpts/D/D-A0901 DW/GP/DA/REW

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 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

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 Department for Education and Skills (Df ES), 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 2009

Any enquiries about this report publication should be addressed to:

Dominus Way
Meridian Business Park
LE10 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 one or more of the questions 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 a sufficient degree of
understanding. Candidates should prepare themselves for this vocational examination by ensuring
their understanding, not rote-learning pre-prepared answers.

Recurrent Problems

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.

− 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

UNIT A – Managing health and safety

Section A – all questions compulsory

Question 1 Outline ways in which a health and safety practitioner could evaluate and
develop their own practice. (10)

Health and safety practitioners might evaluate their own practice in a number of ways
including measuring the effects of changes and developments they have introduced
and implemented in their organisations; by setting personal objectives and targets and
assessing their performance against them; by reviewing failures or unsuccessful
attempts to produce change; by benchmarking their practice against that of other
practitioners and against good practice case studies or information; by seeking advice
from other competent professionals; by seeking feedback from others such as clients
of the organisation and as part of the annual appraisal of their performance by senior

They may develop their practice by augmenting their core knowledge and competence
in obtaining a recognised professional qualification; by keeping up to date by
undertaking training in relevant areas; by participating in CPD schemes; by ensuring
they have access to suitable information sources; by networking with their peers at
safety groups and conferences; by seeking advice from other competent practitioners
and consultants and by initiating and following a personal development plan.

Some candidates did not appreciate that the question was concerned with personal
competency and professional development whilst others did not associate “practice”
with performance.

Question 2 Witness interviews are an important part of the information-gathering

process of an accident investigation. Describe the requirements of an
interview process that would help to obtain the best quality of information
from witnesses. (10)

Answers to this question were generally to a good standard. Candidates who did best
approached the question in a methodical way starting with the need to interview as
soon as possible after the event though it may be necessary to postpone the interview
if the witness is injured or in shock; providing a suitable environment for the interview;
interviewing one witness at a time; putting the witness at ease, establishing a good
rapport, taking care to stress the preventive purpose of the investigation rather than
the apportioning of blame; explaining the purpose of the interview and the need to
record it; using an appropriate questioning technique to establish key facts and
avoiding leading questions or implied conclusions; using appropriate sketches or
photographs to help with the interview; listening to the witness without interruptions
and allowing them sufficient time to give their answers; and summarising and
checking agreement at the end of the interview.

Good answers also included the need to adjust language to suit the witness;
clarifying what was actually witnessed as opposed to deduced; inviting the witnesses
to have someone accompany them if they so wish and showing appreciation at the
end of the interview.

Question 3 A health and safety management programme encompasses the following

(a) risk avoidance; (2)

(b) risk reduction; (2)

(c) risk transfer; (3)

(d) risk retention. (3)

Identify the key features of EACH of these concepts AND give an

appropriate example in EACH case.

Risk avoidance involves taking active steps to avoid or eliminate risk for example by
discontinuing the process, avoiding the activity or eliminating a hazardous substance.
Risk reduction involves evaluating the risks and developing risk reduction strategies. It
requires the organisation to define an acceptable level of risk control to be achieved
which could be by the use of safety/risk management systems or the use of a
hierarchy of control measures.

Risk transfer involves transferring risk to other parties but paying a premium for this
for example by the use of insurance; the use of contractors to undertake certain
works; the use of third parties for business interruption recovery planning or
outsourcing a process or processes.

Risk retention involves accepting a level of risk within the organisation along with a
decision to fund losses internally. It could involve risk retention with knowledge where
the risk has been recognised and evaluated or risk retention without knowledge where
the risk has not been identified - obviously an unfavourable position for the
organisation to be in.

Some candidates found difficulty in differentiating between risk avoidance and risk
reduction while others gave examples which did not match the particular concept they
were dealing with.

Question 4 Train drivers may spend long periods of time in the cab of a train and
may be susceptible to loss of alertness. This can increase the risk of
human error.

Outline a range of measures that could reduce loss of alertness in train

drivers. (10)

In answering this question it should not have proved too difficult to outline a range of
control measures even though candidates may not have possessed knowledge of the
rail industry. These would include the introduction of a shift system to minimise the risk
of fatigue with controls being introduced on shift length, the provision of regular breaks
and sufficient recovery time particularly during and after the potentially high risk period
between midnight and 06.00 hrs and the assessment of risks from unplanned call-out.

It would also be necessary to introduce a pre-employment medical examination
followed by regular in service health screening including measures to manage stress
and to put in place an alcohol and substance use policy with arrangements for its
enforcement including random testing. Attention would also have to be given both to
the design of the cabin and the driver’s activity including the provision of air
conditioning, controls for illumination and sun shading, adjustable seating and the
introduction of noise control measures. The variation of route allocation may help to
maintain alertnessand other measures could have included the fitting of hold to run or
other audible warning devices and the need for the driver to engage in frequent
communication with the guard or control centre.

Answers to this question were generally to a good standard, though occasionally

candidates referred to the issues that could reduce loss of alertness in drivers rather
than the control measures that should be introduced.

Question 5 Outline how safety tours could contribute to improving health and safety
performance and to improving health and safety culture within a
Discussion of the specific health and safety requirements, problems or
standards that such tours may address, is not required. (10)

There are a number of contributions that safety tours could make in improving health
and safety performance in a company including helping to identify compliance or non-
compliance with performance standards and, by repetition in the same area, indicating
an improving or worsening trend and checking the implementation and effectiveness
of agreed courses of action. Additionally, when carried out in different areas, they can
point up common organisational health and safety problems and may identify
opportunities for improved performance through the observations of the tour members
or by their conversations with employees during the tour. When tours are carried out
on an unscheduled basis, there is the additional benefit of observing normal standards
of behaviour rather than those specifically adopted for the event.

Tours may also help to improve the health and safety culture of an organisation
particularly if they are led on a regular basis by members of management indicating
their commitment to the cause. Additionally, prompt remedial action for deficiencies
noted enhances the perception of the priority given to health and safety matters whilst
the involvement of employees in the tours will again encourage ownership and
improve their perception of the importance of the subject, particularly if the findings of
the tours are shared with the workforce on a regular basis.

Since safety tours are well recognised as an active monitoring technique, it was
expected that candidates would not have too much difficulty in answering this
question. However, this level of expectation was not realised with candidates often
concentrating on the mechanisms of carrying out tours such their timing, their location
and the composition of the team to be involved rather than outlining how the tours
could contribute to improving the health and safety performance and culture of an

Question 6 The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 presents a number of
opportunities for individuals to be prosecuted for breaches of duties
under the Act. Assuming that the individuals are employed within a large
company, outline the circumstances under which they may be
prosecuted for such breaches. (10)

Candidates who structured their answers round sections 7, 8, 36 and 37 of the Health
and Safety at Work etc Act produced the better answers.

Under section 7, employees might be prosecuted if they did not take reasonable care
for their own health and safety and that of other persons who could be affected by
their acts or omissions at work. They might also face prosecution for failing to
cooperate with their employer to enable compliance with his duties under the Act.

Under section 8, proceedings may be taken against any individual for recklessly
interfering with or misusing anything provided in the interests of health, safety or
welfare in pursuance of relevant statutory provisions.

There was some misunderstanding between the duties contained in Sections 36 and
37. Section 36 is used when the commission of an offence by any person is due to
the act or default of some other person. That “other person” may be charged and
convicted whether or not proceedings are taken against the first mentioned person.
The section enables an individual at fault to be prosecuted for the offence of the
employer and is particularly relevant for managers and supervisors who may cause
other persons to commit offences through their instructions.

Directors and senior managers of a corporate body may be prosecuted as individuals

under Section 37 if it is proved that an offence with which the body is charged was
committed with their consent or connivance or was attributable to any neglect on their
part. The actual effect of section 37 is that it enables an individual to be prosecuted for
the offence of the employer thereby attracting the same penalty as that attached to the
employer offence. Additional marks were available for referring to the decided case of
Armour v Skeen.

Finally, an individual may be prosecuted under section 33(1)(n) for falsely pretending
to be an inspector.

It was disappointing to note that several candidates lacked a basic knowledge of the
Health and Safety at Work etc Act. A few concentrated on Section 2 while there were
also some who discussed corporate manslaughter which neither relates to individuals
nor is a duty under the Act.

Section B – three from five questions to be attempted

Question 7 An employer wishes to build a new gas compression installation to

provide energy for its manufacturing processes. An explosion in the
installation could affect the public and a nearby railway line. In view of
this the employer has been told that a qualitative risk assessment for the
new installation may not be adequate and that some aspects of the risk
require a quantitative risk assessment.

(a) Explain the terms ‘qualitative risk assessment’ AND ‘quantitative

risk assessment’. (5)

(b) Identify the external sources of information and advice that the
employer could refer to when deciding whether the risk from the
new installation is acceptable. (5)

(c) A preliminary part of the risk assessment process is to be a

hazard and operability study. Describe the principles and
methodology of a hazard and operability (HAZOP) study. (10)

In answering part (a) of the question, many candidates found difficulty in explaining
the terms qualitative and quantitative risk assessment. Qualitative risk assessment
involves the use of informed subjective judgements to arrive at a broad measure of
risk. Following a comprehensive identification of hazards, broad categories are used to
classify the likelihood of the hazards being realised and the severity of their
consequences. The categories may be descriptors or numbers. Most everyday risk
assessment is qualitative.

Quantitative risk assessment on the other hand is a numerical representation of the

actual frequency and/or probability of an event and its consequences. It often involves
comparison with specific criteria and is objective.

In identifying external sources of information and advice for part (b), candidates could
have referred to the tolerability criteria set down in “Reducing Risks, Protecting
People”.Other sources of information may have included HSE or industry guidance
which sets risk control standards for the type of installation concerned, competent
consultants with relevant experience and other organisations with similar installations.
Insurers may also influence the risk tolerability decision by indicating their willingness
or otherwise to provide insurance. . Candidates generally struggled to identify relevant
sources of information and very few referred to tolerability criteria.

Part (c) sought to test candidates understanding of HAZOP studies.. The purpose of a
Hazop is to identify deviations from intended normal operation and is best used at the
design stage or when modifications are proposed for an existing installation. They
were expected to explain the need for a team approach with specialists from relevant
disciplines, a team leader and the need to define the scope of the study, breaking
down the process into elements, collecting data and information to support the study
and adopting a brainstorming approach. Candidates should also have described that
deviations are prompted by the use of guide words which are applied to relevant
process parameters such as temperature or flow and marks were available for giving
examples such as “no” (negation of the design intent), “more” (quantitative increase),
“as well as” (qualitative increase) and “other than” (complete substitution). Better
answers added that the study examines the possible causes and consequences of
each deviation, identifies possible corrective actions and is documented and recorded.
Answers to this part of the question varied in quality. Few mentioned the use of guide
words but those who included a part of a typical HAZOP record form in their
answergenerally obtained better marks.

Question 8 (a) Organisations are said to have both formal and informal
structures and groups. Outline the difference between ‘formal’
AND ‘informal’ in this context. (6)

(b) The HSE publication ‘Successful Health and Safety

Management’ (HSG65) describes a model of safety management
in which the ‘organising’ element requires control, co-operation,
communication and competence. Outline, using practical
examples, what ‘co-operation’ means in this context. (6)

(c) Organisational change can, if not properly managed, promote a

negative health and safety culture. Outline the reasons for this. (8)

A formal structure or group is hierarchical, generally shown in an organisational chart

and characterised by defined responsibilities and agreed reporting lines, while an
informal structure is characterised by social and personal relationships, habitual and
related contacts and the presence of strong characters with personality and
communication skills that may exert personal influence.

In outlining the meaning of “co-operation” for part (b) of the question, candidates
should have referred to formal consultation arrangements such as those with safety
representatives, direct consultation with employees at team meetings and participation
in safety committee meetings and also to informal consultation on safety issues during
day to day discussions with employees. “Co-operation” would also include the
involvement of employees in safety processes such as carrying out risk assessments
and developing systems of work; playing their part in incident investigations,
inspections, audits and other monitoring processes; being encouraged to report
hazards and “near miss” incidents; and being invited to become members of safety
circles for problem solving. Finally the provision of training and development would be
an important factor in maximising the involvement of employees in health and safety
matters. Answers to this part of the question were disappointing and many were
directed towards control and communication rather than to cooperation as required.
Examiners were concerned that some candidates at Diploma level showed little grasp
of the content of HSG65.

Organisational change can, if not properly managed, promote a negative health and
safety culture for a number of reasons such as: the profile of safety may not be
maintained during the change and new job responsibilities may not have fully covered
safety issues; normal consultation mechanisms and routes may be disrupted; training
in safety issues for new job-holders or for new responsibilities may not have been
completed; the lack of adequate means of communication during the change may
compromise trust and poor consultation on change issues may have a negative effect
on cooperation and on other issues including safety; there may be concern about job
security which could encourage risk taking; redundancy processes or cost reduction
measures may produce a perception that the organisation is not concerned with
personal well-being; experience or knowledge of risk controls may be lost with
changes of personnel; the safety implications of changes in personnel or numbers
may not have been properly assessed; extensive movement of personnel makes it
harder to establish shared perceptions and values; a greater use of outsourcing
without good control may result in lower safety standards by contractors which may
affect the perception of priorities; and last but not least the effects of natural resistance
to change.

Question 9 (a) Describe the statutory duties set down in section 6 of the Health
and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in so far as they affect
substances for use at work. Your answer should contain a
description of the duty holders and the duties concerned. (10)

(b) (i) Outline the key legal duties that an employer has
towards employees under the Health and Safety at Work
etc Act 1974 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 in
respect of the use of a substance that may cause harm
to an unborn child. A discussion of practical control
measures is not required. (6)
(ii) State the legal action that an employee may take if they
feel that they have been subject to unfair sex
discrimination. State the outcomes that may result
including the routes of appeal. (4)

Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. places an obligation on
manufacturers, importers and suppliers of substances for use at work to ensure so far
as is reasonably practicable, that they are safe and without risk to health when being
used, handled, stored or transported; to carry out any necessary testing and
examination to ensure the required level of safety and freedom from risk; to provide
those supplied with information on risks to health, on the relevant tests that have been
carried out and on conditions for the safe use of the substance; and to provide
information to those supplied on conditions for the safe disposal of the substance and
with revised information should a subsequent serious risk become known. The duty
holders also have an obligation to carry out research to discover ways of eliminating
or minimising any risks to health or safety arising from the use or disposal of the

In answer to part (b), the key legal duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act
(HSWA) are contained in section 2(1) relating to the employer’s general duty to
ensure the health, safety and welfare of his employees; in section 2(2)(b) relating to
the duty to ensure the absence of risks to health in connection with the use and
handling of substances; and to section 2(2)(c) relating to the provision of information,
instruction, training and supervision. Under the Sex Discrimination Act, an employer
may not treat an employee less favourably on the grounds of gender. However,
discrimination is not unlawful if it is necessary to comply with the requirements of
HSWA though it will need to be shown that there is no reasonably practicable
alternative method of providing adequate protection.

If an employee feels that he/she has been subject to unfair sex discrimination, he/she
may bring a complaint to an Employment Tribunal . The outcome could be the award
of compensation and/or recommendations and a declaration of rights .. The routes of
appeal are to an Employment Appeal Tribunal and thence to the Court of Appeal Civil
Division in England and Wales and to the Inner House of the Court of Sessions in

This was not a popular question and of those who did attempt it, few did well.
Candidates appeared to have little knowledge of the Sex Discrimination Act or of the
routes of appeal from an Employment Tribunal

Question 10 A small food company imports and blends natural ingredients, many in
powder form. This creates a dusty environment but, since the company

believes that the ingredients are inherently safe, the only means of
controlling dust levels is by natural ventilation. An employee of the
company has recently been diagnosed as severely asthmatic. He claims
that he informed the company on starting employment that he suffered
from chest problems but no masks were provided or further precautions
taken. He also claims that his symptoms have considerably worsened
during his three years with the company.

Explain, with the aid of appropriate case law, the legal actions that might
be available to the employee in a claim for compensation against his
employer, clearly showing what he would need to prove for the actions to
succeed. (20)

Better answers to this question came from those candidates who were able to explain
the criteria for a successful claim both for negligence and breach of statutory duty and
who could apply these criteria to the scenario given. It was expected that candidates
would indicate what might lead firstly to the conclusion that there had been a breach
of the common law duty of care such as that there was a duty of care owed since
there was an employer/employee relationship; that there was a breach of that duty in
that the employer failed to take reasonable precautions to protect the health of the
employee since it was reasonably foreseeable that dust would cause or exacerbate
respiratory problems; and that there was a link between the breach of duty and the
damage which would have to be substantiated by medical evidence. Marks were also
available for reference to relevant decided cases such as Wilsons and Clyde Coal Co
v English and Paris v Stepney Borough Council with respect to the special duty to
vulnerable persons.

An explanation of the tests for breach of statutory duty should have referred to the
nature of the duty and the breach and that the employer was the duty holder; that the
claimant was within the class of persons the statute was designed to protect; that the
harm caused was of the type that the statute was designed to prevent; that the
damage was due to the breach and that the statute allowed action since it was not
statute barred.
In the context of an answer about a civil action for breach of statutory duty candidates
should have identified a small number of examples of statutory duties that may have
been relevant. Statutory Instruments that contain specific requirements relevant to the
scenario, and under which actions would have been allowed were the Management of
Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) and, more particularly
perhaps, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
Candidates were expected to identify examples of specific requirements within this
legislation that would be relevant. In MHSWR for instance, it could be alleged that no
risk assessment had been carried out (Reg 3): that the arrangements made for health
and safety were inadequate (Regs 4 and 5); that no health surveillance had been
provided (Reg 6) and that there had been a failure to provide information to
employees on the risks to their health and safety (Reg 10). As for the requirements of
COSHH, the employee would need to prove initially that the dusts were substances
hazardous to health as defined. That done, he could then point to the failure of the
employer to carry out an adequate assessment (Reg 6); to provide adequate controls
such as ventilation (Reg 7); to carry out monitoring (Reg 10); to provide health
surveillance (Reg 11); and to provide adequate information, instruction and training
(Reg 12).

Question 11 Explain the benefits of:

(a) an integrated health and safety, environmental, and quality
management system; (10)

(b) separate health and safety, environmental, and quality

management systems. (10)

The arguments for and against the use of an integrated management system for
safety, quality and environmental issues will need to be considered by many
practitioners at some stage during their careers. The question invited candidates to
outline their understanding of the key benefits of both an integrated and separate

The benefits of an integrated management system could have included: consistency

of format and a lower overall cost through the avoidance of duplication in procedural,
record-keeping, compliance auditing and software areas; avoiding narrow decision
making that solves a problem in one area but creates a problem in another;
encouraging priorities and resource utilisation that reflect the overall needs of the
organisation rather than an individual discipline; applying the benefits from good
initiatives in one area to other areas; encouraging closer working and equal influence
amongst specialists; encouraging the spread of a positive culture across all three
disciplines; and providing scope for the integration of other risk areas such as security
or product safety.

Benefits from retaining separate systems could have included: providing a more
flexible approach tailored to business needs in terms of system complexity and
operating philosophy (for example, safety standards must meet minimum legal
requirements whereas quality standards can be set internally – therefore, the need for
a more complex system in one element may not be mirrored by a similar need in the
other two elements); ; separate systems might be clearer for external stakeholders or
regulators to understand and work with; and finally they may encourage a more
detailed and focused approach to auditing and standards.

This question has appeared on a previous examination paper. On this occasion it was
not well answered. A few candidates seemed unable to understand what the question
required while other responses lacked the depth required. Despite the wording of the
question, some candidates explained both the benefits and the disadvantages of the
systems. The latter was not required.

The National Examination
Board in Occupational
Safety and Health

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