Author Bio ▼

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.

October 4, 2019

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NEBOSH Diplomas, General Certificate and Awards

NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) is a charitable organisation, which offers a comprehensive range of globally-recognised qualifications designed to meet the health, safety and environmental management needs of all places of work.

NEBOSH 40-year anniversary

NEBOSH kicked off its 40th anniversary roadshow with Lord Jordan hosting an event at the prestigious House of Lords in London. Since its inception in 1979, as an awarding body with charitable status, it has awarded nearly 400,000 qualifications, in over 130 countries through its network of more than 600 Learning Partners. The people and organisations behind these achievements have made a significant contribution to the development of health and safety across the world.

It offers a comprehensive range of globally-recognised qualifications designed to meet the health, safety and environmental management needs of all places of work.

Courses leading to NEBOSH qualifications attract around 50,000 candidates annually and are offered by over 620 course providers, with exams taken in over 120 countries around the world.

NEBOSH Chief Executive, Ian Taylor, said: “To go home safely at the end of the working day is a right, not a privilege. Over the past 40 years, NEBOSH has helped to secure that right for people all over the world. We will continue to ensure this global progress continues for many more years to come.

“We’ve got a great team of people, learners and partners behind us, and with an exciting new three year strategy – spearheaded by the launch of our new-look General Certificates earlier in September 2019 – the future looks incredibly bright.”

View the NEBOSH 40th anniversary mosaic here.

What does NEBOSH stand for?

NEBOSH stands for ‘The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health’.

In 2014, it was awarded Britain’s highest accolade for trade success, the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, for our “outstanding achievement” in International Trade.

NEBOSH qualifications are recognised by the relevant professional membership bodies including the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), International Institute of Risk & Safety Management (IIRSM) and Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA).

In addition, NEBOSH examinations and assessments are set by its professionally qualified staff 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.

In addition, NEBOSH is also an ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 certified organisation.

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

NEBOSH qualifications

NEBOSH offers three categories of qualifications – Award, Certificate and Diploma – which are taken by more than 35,000 people every year.

In addition, it also now offers a range of Masters degrees, through a partnership with the University of Hull.


NEBOSH’s Award-level qualifications provide a basic understanding of health and safety and environmental principles and practice and provide a perfect introduction to other NEBOSH qualifications. Three awards are currently available:

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

NEBOSH Certificate

NEBOSH’s Certificate-level qualifications give a good foundation in health and safety for managers, supervisors and staff with health and safety among their day to day responsibilities.

These qualifications are widely taken as a first step towards a career in health and safety and are accepted by IOSH – the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health – in meeting the academic requirements for Technical Membership of IOSH (Tech IOSH).

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

11 NEBOSH Certificate-level qualifications are currently available:

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

NEBOSH Diploma

NEBOSH Diplomas are globally recognised qualifications aimed at professional health and safety advisors and environmental practitioners.
Previous experience of health and safety is strongly recommended and entry requirements may be set by course providers.

Completion of a NEBOSH Diploma provides an excellent foundation for further study. Diplomates are invited to the NEBOSH Graduation Ceremony, held at the University of Warwick. Family and friends are also able to attend to enjoy and celebrate your achievement.
Four diplomas are currently available:

NEBOSH Masters

The University of Hull in partnership with NEBOSH are offering Masters Degrees by distance learning in Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Management subjects.

Six different Masters are available:

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

These qualifications are open to holders of a NEBOSH Diploma who wish to further their learning in Health and Safety and/or Environmental Management. They have been designed with an emphasis on flexibility for those people in full time work looking to complement their previous NEBOSH Diploma studies.

Delivered through distance learning, these qualifications are ideal for both national and international candidates wishing to gain a Masters level qualification focussed on workplace-based research.

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 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.

To find out more, contact: Stephen Pace at the University of Hull on 01482 465455 or [email protected]

Health and safety jobs

NEBOSH supports the health and safety jobs site, SHP4Jobs

For more information about NEBOSH and its qualifications, visit

Advance your career in health and safety

Browse hundreds of jobs in health and safety, brought to you by SHP4Jobs, and take your next steps as a consultant, health and safety officer, environmental advisor, health and wellbeing manager and more.

Or, if you’re a recruiter, post jobs and use our database to discover the most qualified candidates.

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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!