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NEBOSH Exam Worked Example

Related Article - A Potted Guide to Taking NEBOSH exams

OK we've talked about all the theory – now let's put it all together and try to give a perfect answer to a mock exam question:

"Volunteers are involved in collecting bags of books, clothes and other donated goods from householders. The bags are loaded into vans for delivery to a chain of charity shops. Explain how the charity should assess the risks to the charity workers, identifying the particular issues that would need to be considered at each stage of the assessment" (NEBOSH Diploma Part One, June 2003)

First things first – look at the action verbs. You are being asked to explain how the problem should be assessed and identify the particular issues at key stages.

Re-read the question now, and underline your key signposts:

"Volunteers (unskilled, no selection criteria?) are involved in collecting bags (manual handling – size, weight, shape etc.) of books, clothes and other donated goods from householders (violence, dogs etc.). The bags are loaded into vans (driven by who? Vehicle hazards) for delivery to a chain of charity shops. Explain how the charity should assess the risks (assess the risks, not control them) to the charity workers, identifying the particular issues that would need to be considered at each stage of the assessment" (NEBOSH Diploma Part One, June 2003).

As this question is essentially about how to carry out a risk assessment, the 5 steps approach would be a good structure to follow. This question was worth 20 marks, so a plan would be in order:


1. Identify hazards

Manual Handling
Contents of bags

2. Decide who can be harmed

Volunteers – old, untrained, health problems, how many?

3. Evaluate risks

Evaluate existing controls
Legal requirements

4. Record

5. Review



No need for a flowery intro about how many injuries are cause by manual handling or where risk assessment comes from – just get on with it!!



The first stage of a risk assessment is concerned with identifying hazards, which in this case may be as follows:

Violent assault by members of the public or being attacked by dangerous dogs

Musculoskeletal disorders caused by lifting bags or constraints on posture when working inside the vans

Injuries caused by the contents of the bags e.g. sharps or chemicals

Slips, trips and falls due to uneven surfaces, kerbs, steps etc.

Traffic accidents involving the vans, especially if they were poorly maintained or the bags caused an obstruction inside

Vans being struck by other road vehicles

Poor lighting due to work in the evenings or in autumn/winter

Weather conditions could be a problem especially if particularly hot, wet, cold or windy

Lone working which may result in a lack of communication between volunteers and their supervisors

Manual handling would be the major hazard due to a variety of factors: The bags may have to be carried for long distances and there will be a large amount of repetitive handling. Lots of stooping and twisting may also be required inside the van. The bags themselves may be heavy or bulky, and as their contents are unknown, may be unstable or unpredictable.



The next stage is to consider how many people are affected by the risk, and who they are.

Volunteers may well be elderly and are likely to be retired. This means that they may have existing health problems and may not be as strong as they once were. Pregnant women or young people would also be at increased risk.



To come up with a level of risk, there are several factors which need to be considered:

The likely severity of injury if an accident were to happen, for example a slipped disc might be an outcome of a manual handling injury

The probability that an accident was going to occur

The duration and frequency of exposure to the hazards

Existing control measures should be evaluated to assess their effectiveness. These may be things such as manual handling training, supervision, mechanical aids etc.

The law should be considered to see if more needs to be done. The relevant law here are the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regs (Risk Assessment) and the Manual Handling Regs



The significant findings of the risk assessment should be recorded and information on these findings should be provided to employees



The risk assessment should be reviewed when there is reason to believe that it is no longer valid. This may be for a variety of reasons, e.g.:

Lapse of time

Enforcement action

An accident has occurred

There you go - 20 marks to start you off with! Too many students didn't use the 5 steps approach so didn't think widely enough to get good marks. Lots also gave long lists of how to control hazards, which was not asked for and so attracted no marks.

You can read the potted guide to taking NEBOSH exams to help you along by clicking the following link, or by browsing the articles section:

A Potted Guide to Taking NEBOSH exams

Well that's about all the help I can give you, so it just remains to say:

Good Luck!

Nick Higginson MSc CMIOSH Dip2.OSH SpDipEM MIIRSM

Phoenix Health and Safety Consultancy