Journalist, SHP Online

January 13, 2017

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NEBOSH Diplomas, General Certificate and Awards

NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) is a charitable organisation whose vision is to preserve and improve health, safety and the environment in the workplace worldwide.

It achieves this primarily through the provision of highly respected and demanding vocational qualifications.

NEBOSH General Certificate

An example of the NEBOSH General Certificate

What is NEBOSH?

NEBOSH receives almost 200,000 examination registrations every year from people living in 125 different countries, each seeking to achieve one of various qualifications.

As well as career professionals, people with many different workplace roles and responsibilities now hold NEBOSH qualifications. Health, safety and environmental management is increasingly seen as an important skill for all kinds of employees to possess, from company directors to construction workers, insurance advisors, HR personnel and more.

NEBOSH examinations and assessments are set by professionally qualified staff and assisted by external examiners, most of whom are Chartered Safety and Health Practitioners or Chartered Environmentalists operating within industry, the public sector or in enforcement.

NEBOSH does not deliver courses themselves. Instead, these are offered by NEBOSH Accredited Course Providers, of which there are more than 620 throughout the world. They provide the training and education needed to achieve a NEBOSH qualification.

A good starting point for finding a NEBOSH course or Accredited Course Provider is the ‘Where to Study’ section of the NEBOSH website at

To understand what is involved, this video is an example of a practice exam question:


NEBOSH Qualifications explained

There are currently three different categories of NEBOSH qualification – Award, Certificate and Diploma. In addition, through a partnership with the University of Hull, NEBOSH also now offers a range of Masters degrees.


An Award qualification demonstrates basic understanding of the subject covered and may be used as an introduction to other higher level NEBOSH qualifications. NEBOSH offers three Award level qualifications:

  • NEBOSH Award in Health and Safety at Work
  • NEBOSH Environmental Awareness at Work Qualification
  • NEBOSH Award in Safety, Health and Environment for the Process Industries

Employers in particular are attracted to this level of qualification, as they help to improve overall health and safety culture. A significant number of employers have fully integrated these Awards into their training programmes to become mandatory foundation qualifications. One of the key benefits for employers is the flexibility of course structure and content, which can be tailored to different industries and individual workplaces, and therefore having a positive and rapid impact on performance.

As well as in English, the NEBOSH Award in Health and Safety at Work can be taken in five other languages, French, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese and Russian.

NEBOSH Certificates

NEBOSH Certificate level qualifications demonstrate broad knowledge of the subject covered. There are nine NEBOSH Certificate level qualifications:

  • NEBOSH International General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety
  • NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety
  • NEBOSH International Certificate in Construction Health and Safety
  • NEBOSH National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety
  • NEBOSH International Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management
  • NEBOSH National Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management
  • NEBOSH International Technical Certificate in Oil and Gas Operational Safety
  • NEBOSH National Certificate in the Management of Health and Well-being at Work
  • NEBOSH Certificate in Environmental Management

For those seeking a long-term career in occupational health and safety, Certificate level qualifications offer a progression route towards NEBOSH professional level Diplomas.

However, both the NEBOSH International and National General Certificates in Occupational Health and Safety are also increasingly seen as an important core qualification for general management in the workplace. In fact, around 80% of people who take a NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety qualification are employed in roles where the primary function is not actually health and safety.

The NEBOSH International General Certificate can be taken in French, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Turkish, in addition to English. It is split into three units: Two written exams. One practical assessment within the workplace.

As well as rigorous examinations, NEBOSH Certificate level qualifications also feature practical assessments, designed to help candidates apply their learning at work and at the same time adding value for their employers.

In this video Roxanne Woodiwiss a graduate with distinction gives her tips for passing  the NEBOSH National General Certificate exam:.

NEBOSH Diplomas

Diploma level qualifications demonstrate professional knowledge of the subject covered. There are three NEBOSH Diploma qualifications:

NEBOSH Diplomas are recognised globally as the flagship professional qualification for aspiring health and safety professionals. Those who pass their NEBOSH Diploma are entitled to use designatory letters, such as DipNEBOSH for the NEBOSH National Diploma.

Subsequently, they may also qualify for membership of professional bodies, including Graduate (Grad IOSH) and Chartered (CMIOSH) membership of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health and member status (MIIRSM) of the Institute of Risk and Safety Management.

Every year, more than two hundred NEBOSH Diploma students from around the world gather to celebrate their success at a Graduation and Awards Ceremony currently held at the University of Warwick in the UK. Recently qualified NEBOSH Diploma candidates travel from around the UK and many other countries to attend. Awards are also presented to top candidates for both Certificate and Diploma qualifications

NEBOSH Masters

NEBOSH offers three Master of Science (MSc) degrees and three Master of Research (MRes) degrees in partnership with the University of Hull:

  • MSc in Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Management
  • MSc in Occupational Health and Safety Management
  • MSc in Environmental Management
  • MRes in Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Management
  • MRes in Occupational Health and Safety Management
  • MRes in Environmental Management

These postgraduate degrees are designed for those wishing to extend their academic achievement beyond the level of a NEBOSH Diploma qualification, in order to further advance their professional careers.

The MSc programmes consist of taught modules on advanced topics relating to health, safety and environmental management and research dissertations relevant to a candidates own place of work. The MRes programmes consist of online distance-learning courses that cover research methodology and literature searches, as well as a research project completed in the workplace.


Guidance for taking NEBOSH certificate exams

NEBOSH exams

Jonathan Backhouse explains how to tackle the NEBOSH general certificate, giving tips on how to answer questions as well as useful resources for studying.

Undertaking any exam can be daunting. For example, the NEBOSH General Certificate consists of two, two-hour exams as well as a practical workplace assignment to complete.

The article will draw examples from the NEBOSH General certificate, however the principles covered will be beneficial for all NEBOSH certificate level exams, and for many other exams.

This article will:

  1. Identify useful documents to be used when preparing for your examinations.
  2. Give an example of studying incorrect/out of date information.
  3. Outline common myths concerning NEBOSH exams.
  4. Explain the meaning of the command words used in certificate exams.
  5. Describe with a practical example what is required for each command word.
  1. Supporting documentation

The internet includes countless NEBOSH resources – some good, some bad and some quite ugly! The best staring place will be the NEBSOH website.

The following list should be helpful in downloading useful documents for exams and the practical assignment:

Downloading the syllabus will give you an amazing insight into what is needed – likewise understanding the command words will help you with your exam preparation. The syllabus also includes links for reference material, which will be beneficial for the trainer and student.

If you need to research a particular area on health and safety you are best focusing on the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) website.

The two main two publishers for NEBOSH text books are:

The book Essential Health and Safety Study Skills has been developed to help students study a range of health and safety qualifications including the NEBOSH General Certificate. It also provides information about study skills and preparing for an exam.

  1. An example of studying incorrect/out of date information.

For example, hierarchy of control. This was once learned as ERIC PD (Eliminate, Reduce, Isolate, Control, PPE and Discipline), well Eric left the building many years ago!

The syllabus requires candidates to apply the general hierarchy of control with reference to OHSAS 18001 (soon to transitioned to ISO 45001):

  1. eliminate the hazard;
  2. substitute with less hazardous materials, processes, operations or equipment;
  3. use engineering controls;
  4. use administrative controls; and
  5. provide and ensure use of adequate personal protective equipment.

If you learn ‘ERIC PD’ and a question asks you to:

  • identify examples of the general hierarchy of control; or
  • outline ways the general hierarchy of control can be applied to a specific situation

then it is unlikely that you will gain the maximum marks available. Remember PPE is the last resort not Discipline!

Another mistake (i.e. bending with your back straight) with regards to correct lifting techniques for manual handling, is often taught.


  1. Common myths concerning NEBOSH exams

There are many myths about NEBOSH. The most common are:

  • You have to learn NEBOSH speak.
  • The course is too hard.

First there is no such thing as NEBOSH speak; you will have to learn terms and phrases that you may not be familiar with, like ‘hierarchy of control’.

For the certificate exams (not just NEBOSH) you will need to know the difference between Identify, Outline, Describe, Explain and Give.

  1. Meaning of the command words used in certificate exams

Command word Meaning Example
Identify To give reference to an item, which could be its name or title Normally a word or phrase will be sufficient, provided the reference is clear
Outline To indicate the principal features or different parts of Give a brief summary of the major aspects of whatever is stated in the question
Describe To give a detailed written account of the distinctive features of a subject. The account should be factual, without any attempt to explain When describing a subject (or object) a test of sufficient detail would be that another person would be able to visualise what you are describing
Explain To provide an understanding. To make an idea or relationship clear This command word is testing the candidate’s ability to know or understand why or how something happens. Is often associated with the words ‘how’ or ‘why’
Give To provide short, factual answers Normally a single word, phrase or sentence will be sufficient

Source: NEBOSH (2015) Guidance on command words used in learning outcomes and question papers – certificate qualifications.


  1. Practical example: NEBOSH style question

The following question shows a practical example of each of the command words

  1. Identify types (or kinds) of fruit. (2)
  2. Give an example of a fruit that would not be used in a fruit salad. (1)
  3. Outline steps to make a fruit salad. (2)
  4. Describe a banana. (2)
  5. Explain the benefits of eating five fruit and/or vegetables per day. (1)


The following shows a model answer to the question:

Identify types (or kinds) of fruit. (2)

  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Kiwi
  • Orange

Give an example of a fruit that would not be used in a fruit salad. (1)

  • Tomato

Outline steps to make a fruit salad. (2)

  • Wash fruit that does not need to be peeled
  • Cut the fruit into small pieces
  • Place the pieces into a large bowl

Describe a banana. (2)

  • The bottom end is narrowed, the top has a thick stem, attaching the fruit to the stalk
  • Ranges from about 10 – 20 cm in length and is curved/crescent in shape.
  • The colour changes from green (unripe), to yellow (ripe), to black (over ripe)
  • Has a thick skin that needs to be removed before eating

Explain the benefits of eating five fruit and/or vegetables per day. (1)

  • Provides a range of vitamins and minerals.
  • Provides fibre within a diet.

N.B. You only need to have the number of answers per mark. For example, identify types of fruit offers 2 marks, so apple and orange would suffice. If you put extra answers that are similar (e.g. clementine, tangerine, satsuma) they may not get the full two marks.

Practice makes perfect

On your course you will, hopefully, get a chance to practice many exam questions. An important lesson is to find out how long the exam takes you. Make time to sit a whole mock paper and practice in exam conditions.

Whilst your course book and other hand-outs from your trainer will be useful, the most important document you will be using is the syllabus (you can find a mock exam in the back of this document).

If you can answer the learning outcomes, then you will be able to answer the exam questions and using the syllabus will ensure you are learning the correct information.

Jonathan BackhouseJonathan Backhouse is a highly qualified, Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner, qualified teacher and author. Having over 14 years of experience in (environmental, health and safety, fire, first aid and food) management, consultancy, training and writing, in the UK. Has taught a range of IOSH and NEBOSH courses in: Africa, Europe, Middle East and USA. Contact details: 07801 305653 | [email protected], LinkedIn

For more information about NEBOSH and its qualifications, visit

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Career Development: Understanding NEBOSH Qualifications | Woodward Scotland Health and Safety Training

This doesn’t explain how they sit on the regulated qualifications framework adequately, and the levels associated with each, perhaps this could be revised? How does NEBOSH Certificate compare to a Level 4 RQF qualifications,for example, what about recognising prior learning from previous qualifications. A bit advertorial!