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NEBOSH

How to do the NEBOSH General Certificate practical risk assessment

Amanda Bathory-Griffiths - Last Update: 17 Aug 2020

Contents

What is the risk assessment?

When to do it

Why do the assessment alongside your studies?

Practical assessment examples

Four stages of the risk assessment

Checking your work and send it for marking

How is the risk assessment marked?

When will you get your results?

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Amanda Bathory-Griffiths

Amanda is TSW's content marketing manager. 

She has a background in personal finance and corporate learning, working for national brands and global agencies.

The NEBOSH General Certificate practical assessment, unit NG2, asks you to complete a real risk assessment at work...

The risk assessment demonstrates that you know how to apply everything you've learnt during the course. It's not as high-pressure as the NG1 exam because you complete it over five weeks, but it's still demanding and needs your focus.

Two engineers in hard hats complete a risk assessment

Key points:

  1. You'll spend five training days working on a trial run risk assessment. The practice risk assessment presents a scenario at a pretend company
  2. You'll learn how to do one section of the risk assessment, then repeat the exercise in your own workplace
  3. The new NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus supports you through the risk assessment. The old syllabus asked you to complete the full risk assessment at the end of the course

What is the NEBOSH General Certificate practical risk assessment?

You must be able to identify hazards and act appropriately to truly keep your workplace safe. That's the purpose of NEBOSH evaluating a risk assessment before awarding the qualification - it wants to see your learning in action

The new NEBOSH practical risk assessment proves that you can practically apply everything you've learnt during your studies.

It's invaluable to know the theory behind health and safety, but as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You must be able to identify hazards and act appropriately to truly keep your workplace safe. That's the purpose of NEBOSH evaluating a risk assessment before awarding the qualification - it wants to see your learning in action.

The practical risk assessment covers four stages - a description of your place of work, the risk assessment, your three prioritised actions, and finally, the review, communication and checking actions. You'll pass depending on how you fulfill each stage.

When do you do the risk assessment?

A paper calendar

In the final few weeks of the course. The new syllabus guides you through each of the four stages, week by week, breaking the assessment up into manageable chunks.

By the end of the NEBOSH General Certificate course, whether you take it over 10 weeks or just six, you should have completed the risk assessment. If you are doing the course through e-learning then you will upload your finished risk assessment to the learning portal.

The old syllabus left the risk assessment until the very end of the course - you'd complete the whole lot on your own - so it's a much more supportive approach.

Why do you do the assessment alongside your studies?

You've got the chance to really think carefully about the report before you submit the real thing. Once you've have mastered the scenario, you're far better prepared to undertake your company's version for your final submission

We spoke to our Head of Health and Safety, Luke Pitt, about why the new syllabus overlaps your studies and the practical risk assessment. He said it's all to support your learning and to help you pass the qualification:

"The NG2 risk assessment, provided by the RRC, is based on a fabricated scenario and business," he explains.

"Each week, you'll go through a stage of the risk assessment and apply it to the scenario as a practice - your trainer will wade in and guide your reasoning.

"Once you've built up enough knowledge, you'll repeat the exercise for your company in your own time.

"It’s very well thought out so you're walked you through each stage before you start on a marked practical.

"We give you a sandpit area to try it on first. You'll throw around ideas, discuss and get it wrong as a group.

"You've got the chance to really think carefully about the report before you submit the real thing. Once you've have mastered the scenario, you're far better prepared to undertake your company's version for your final submission.

"What I like about this is that the learners get to discuss between themselves how to achieve the scenario version, which the old course never gave them time to do.

"This way, the quality is so much better and we will send out learners who will be far better at reporting and undertaking risk assessments."

Practical assessment examples

An engineer works in a warehouse wearing safety goggles

The NEBOSH website has an example risk assessment that you can download for free.

It contains the four stages of the risk assessment, a brief description of what you need to do and dummy content to illustrate what's expected from you.

This is NEBOSH's top-mark risk assessment example. It's a good guide to set the standard, but you couldn't lift it and apply to your own workplace. Your risk assessment must angle your understanding of the health and safety by the standards in your workplace.

During the training, throw yourself into the practice risk assessment, ask questions and follow your trainer's advice. When you come to fill out the assessment, you'll have a clear vision of what each section should detail.

As a bit of extra reading, open the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) risk assessment guidance.

The four stages of the risk assessment

A workshop and wood working tools

One skill you'll have to master is editing your observations and being succinct. The objective isn't to create a risk thesis, but instead to create a record of the facts and sensible and appropriate next steps

You'll use a NEBOSH template that's supplied by your training provider. It's based on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) risk assessment.

You don't need to worry about sourcing it yourself or building a risk assessment document from scratch.

You can complete the form with a pen, or fill it in electronically. There are two different forms for digital or handwritten submission.

Essentially, it's a table in a word document that's broken up into four sections. It's an easy job to methodically work through the risk assessment.

You must:

  • Add your learner number and name to the first sheet of the electronic risk assessment
  • Write your name and learner number on every handwritten sheet

One skill you'll have to master is editing your observations and being succinct. The objective isn't to create a risk thesis, but instead to create a record of the facts and sensible and appropriate next steps.

There's a word count for each section in the template. You should use it as guidance, but you can drift over or under the word count depending on the situation.

NEBOSH wants to see recommendations that are proportional and realistic.

Here's an outline of what's covered at each stage.

#1 A description of your organisation and your methodology

In this section, tell the examiner:

  • The name of your company
  • Where you are in the UK, for example, 'Worcestershire'
  • How many employees there are
  • What your company does, for example, if it manufactures products or offers a service
  • Describe company activities and shift patterns, plus any other relevant information about your business
  • Describe the area you're assessing

You can answer these seven questions to write the description of your organisation.

  1. How big is your company? Small, medium or large
  2. What venues does the business operate from? If it's spread across numerous sites, list them all
  3. What's your company's main activity? This is the task it completes the most frequently, or is the top earner for the business, for example, MOTs
  4. What other activities does your company do? For instance, servicing, oil change and tyre change
  5. Who are its customers? Is it business to business (b2b), or business to consumer (b2c)?
  6. What the typical tasks are undertaken by employees? Cleaning, maintenance, transport and so on
  7. What are your opening hours?
  8. What are the shift start and finish times?

There's another sub-section under the description that asks you to describe your methodology for completing the risk assessment - basically, how you did it.

You must include sources of information, who you consulted, and how you chose your controls.

Think about:

  • Official good practice guidance relative to your sector and organisation - what are their recommendations? The HSE is a reliable place to look.
  • Physically, what you did to finish the assessment - walking around your workplace and talking to employees will demonstrate your ability to examine risks from multiple points of view.
  • How you investigated recurring accidents, injuries, or sickness. For example, looking in the accident book for patterns in the last six or 12 months.

#2 The risk assessment

The second section of the template is where you'll complete the risk assessment.

You must record at least 10 hazards in five different hazard categories. The categories are covered in elements five to 11 of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus:

  • Element 5 - Physical and psychological health
  • Element 6 - Musculoskeletal health
  • Element 7 - Chemical and biological agents
  • Element 8 - Health, welfare and working environment
  • Element 9 - Work equipment
  • Element 10 - Fire
  • Element 11 - Electricity

How do you organise the information?

The risk assessment is split into six columns:

  1. Hazard category and hazard: Choose which category the hazard falls into and describe the hazard, for example, 'Musculoskeletal health, manual handling'.
  2. Who might be harmed and how?: Identify the workers most at risk in your scenario and describe why and how they might encounter the hazard.
  3. What are you already doing?: Describe the controls already in place. That could be signage, or clothing, or equipment, but as throwaway as an 'unwritten rule'.
  4. What further actions and controls are required?: These are your realistic, sensible, and proportionate recommendations.
  5. Timescales for further actions to be completed within: Be as specific as you can, with a date for review. In this section, you can broadly allocate a month or six months, but in section four, you must specify a date.
  6. Responsible person's job role: This is who you'll liaise with about the new controls. Avoid naming names. The responsibility for controlling the hazard should be attached to the role, whoever holds it.

#3 Prioritise three actions and justify them

Look back at your risk assessment column and pick out the three most urgent hazards and actions.

They can all be in the same hazard category, but you must be able to justify why they need the most urgent attention from a moral, legal, and financial perspective.

Your moral argument

Your employer has a duty of care and morally, they shouldn't overlook dangerous hazards that are going to cause harm, lengthy health issues, or potentially life-ending injuries. You can reflect on how hazards impact the mental health of the victim and those who witness the accident too.

The legal and compliance view

Here you can reference relevant laws and legislation. You don't need to cite the full legislation, just include the name of the law.

Tell the examiner what your employer is legally responsible for because of that legislation.

In NEBOSH's practical example, it references the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, 2002, highlighting that employers must ensure that exposure of employees to substances hazardous to health is either prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled.'

If your employer was exposing employees to a large amount of dust, as in NEBOSH's example, the employer is legally required to report cases of occupational asthma and cancer to the HSE, under RIDDOR 2013, regulation 8.

Fiscal review

You need to think about the costs associated with the hazard. That could be:

  • Staffing and cover costs if the injured employee needs time off work
  • The cost of work-related injuries and ill-health
  • How much replacement equipment or repairs would cost
  • The litigation fees and cost of compensation
  • HSE enforcement fees

Likelihood and severity

You must think about how likely it is that the hazard will be to cause harm and injury, and how severe the accident would be if you didn't apply any new controls.

You'll know how to use a risk calculator for this section.

You'll assign a likelihood score between one and five which communicates how likely it is an accident will happen if no action is taken

Then you assign a severity score which describes how sever the accident will be if you take no action.

New controls

Finally, you must describe how your suggestions will effectively control the risk. For every action you recommend, tell the examiner:

  • What the intended impact is
  • Why you've allocated that much time for review
  • Whether you think the control is sufficient

#4 Review, communicate and check

The final section details your next steps. Firstly, set a realistic review date. During the risk assessment, you'll have suggested a rough time frame, but here you must specify a date for review.

You must justify the review date, for example, your company policy is to review health and safety hazards every 12 months.

Next, you must describe how you're going to tell relevant members of staff about your findings. That could be scheduling meetings with responsible people, creating a toolbox for employees who need to support, or at least observe, your new controls.

Then you must outline how you'll enforce the controls and keep tabs on their progress. You've got to check your recommendations are in motion and working. If they fail to materialise, there are bottlenecks or obstructions, you've got to put a strategy in place to keep things moving.

How to check your work and send it for marking

A close up of a drill bit

You're nearly finished. All you've got to do now is triple check you've hit the NEBOSH criteria so you'll pass.

Open the NEBOSH General Certificate website and download the NG2 risk assessment checklist. Compare your risk assessment with the checklist and fill in any gaps.

We've already covered everything you need to do, but this is a quick hit list of the mandatory elements so well worth the final push.

Common mistakes include missing out the methodology, not observing the five hazard categories, not listing 10 hazards, or prioritise too few actions to review.

When you're happy, export it to a pdf (if you're working on it electronically) and send it to your trainer, or the learning provider, to submit to NEBOSH.

They'll upload it and let you know when to expect your results.

How is the risk assessment marked?

You'll either get a pass or refer. A pass is anything above 45 marks. Anything below 45 marks is a fail and you'll need to resit.

You can resit it as many times as you need to, but you must pass both the assessment and exam within five years, or you need to re-do the whole course.

When will you get your results?

It could be a long wait - NEBOSH estimates a maximum of 50 working days between submission and getting your results.