NEBOSH carefully describe the ‘action verbs’ which are used within their examination questions. The reason for this is that they tell the candidate sitting the examination the depth of answer that is required.
Candidates are asked to remember that if the question asks them to state something and they then produce a lengthy explanation, they will probably get marks, but may well have wasted time and effort and may end up running out of time at the end of the examination period.
Conversely, if candidates are asked to describe something and they give a list, they will most probably loose marks. If candidates do not give the depth of answer required, they makers will not be able to give candidates many of the marks allocated to the particular question.
As a very rough guide (and people’s writing varies in size), NEBOSH expect about a page and a half for the 20 mark question, and about half a page for the 8 mark questions. The action verbs are varied so that you should have enough time to give a reasonable response.
It is absolutely crucial that candidates are familiar with the action verbs used in NEBOSH examinations, and that they understand what they actually mean, so that they can produce the types of answers required, and obviously gain the benefits of increased mark potential. Listed below are the action verbs, together with examples of the sort of depth each verb requires. However, candidates are reminded that the examples given are in no way a guarantee of finite examples of the questions that may arise.
Define – provide a generally recognised or accepted definition. e.g. Define the term ‘ergonomics’.
Ergonomics is the study of the interaction between workers and the work environment.
Describe – give a word picture.
e.g. Describe FOUR effects on health & safety that might result from inadequate lighting. Inadequate lighting may cause a variety of effects on health and safety.
1. When using display screen equipment, inadequate lighting causes the eye muscles to work harder, this may cause headaches, temporary fatigue and even eyestrain. 2. Inadequate lighting may lead to increased levels of stress experience by workers as they may have to concentrate more on the work than would be required with a reasonable level of lighting being provided.
3. If lighting levels are poor, workers may not be aware of hazards at floor level, which may result in increased numbers of slips, trips and falls.
4. Workers who have inadequate lighting levels for the task they are carrying out may produce errors. These errors may, as a consequence, result in risks to their own health and safety or that of others.
Explain – give a clear account of, or reasons for.
e.g. Explain why it is important to use a variety of methods to communicate health and safety information in the workplace.
People respond differently to different stimuli. Some will notice written information more readily, whilst others will respond to pictorial information or audible stimuli. Therefore effective promotion of health & safety information needs to take account of these differences, and a range of different media should be used. Examples would be: •
Posters, which incorporate pictures,
The use of different methods prevents workers becoming over-familiar with the materials. If display materials are changed regularly, people are more likely to notice them. This helps to re-enforce the desired message.
Variety also helps to stimulate interest and hopefully increase motivation. If different methods of communication are used, workers are given more opportunity to provide feedback, or become involved. Whilst some will willingly feedback verbally, others may be daunted by speaking out, but may prefer to reply in writing. Providing both methods for feedback would hopefully reach a greater number of people and provide a greater opportunity for staff involvement.
Finally, different types of information require different methods of communication e.g. a complex safe system of work is more likely to be understood if given in writing, discussed and demonstrated, whereas a change in Fire Marshall could be announced at a staff meeting or displayed by the fire action notice, maybe along with the persons photograph.
Give – provide without explanation (used normally with the instruction to ‘give an example of…’).
e.g. For each of the following types of hazardous substance, give a typical example i)
toxic – lead
corrosive – strong acids
carcinogenic – asbestos
irritant – detergents
Identify – select and name.
e.g. Identify the three types of asbestos commonly found in buildings. The three types of asbestos are
Blue – crocidolite)
List – provide a list without explanation.
e.g. List EIGHT observations made during an inspection of a machine operation which may suggest that the machine has not been ergonomically designed.
the need for the operator to use excessive force
the need for repetitive movements by the operator
the need for the operator to stretch or stoop
machine controls sited in awkward positions
unmarked or poorly marked controls or displays where their functions are not obvious
lack of visibility of the task by the operator
the workpiece is difficult to position because of its size or weight
difficulty experienced in changing, adjusting or cleaning the machine tools.
Outline – give the most important features of (less depth than either ‘explain’ or ‘describe’, but more depth than list.
e.g. Outline the sources and possible effects of FOUR non-mechanical hazards commonly encountered in a woodworking shop.
Several non-mechanical hazards could be present including:
Dust from sanding and sawing operations, which could lead to lung disorders and possibly cancer.
Chemical hazards from varnishes and glues which could lead to dermatitis, irritation of the airways and drowsiness.
Noise, which could lead to noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus and stress.
Manual handling hazards which could cause musculoskeletal disorders.
Sketch – provide a simple line drawing using labels to identify specific features. e.g. A pneumatic drill is to be used during extensive repair work to the floor of a warehouse. Identify, by means of a labelled sketch, THREE
possible transmission paths the noise from the drill could take.
1. Reflected noise from walls & surfaces
2. Directly through the air from drill to person
3. Transmission through the structure of the building
State – a less demanding form of ‘define’, or where there is no generally recognised definition.
e.g. State the shape and colour, and give a relevant example, of EACH of the following types of safety sign:
iv) emergency escape or first-aid.
Prohibition signs have a white background within a red circle and with a diagonal red line – for example a no smoking sign.
Warning signs have a yellow background within a black triangle – for example, signs used to warn against the hazards of flammable materials, radiation & electricity.