Lessons in safety

09 June 2021

To mark the launch of a new qualification from NEBOSH and the Health and Safety Executive – the NEBOSH HSE Award in Managing Risks and Risk Assessment at Work – Matt Powell-Howard, talks about the rationale behind the qualification.

HERE ARE already lots of tools available to businesses and professionals which make their lives easier when it comes to managing risk and the Health and Safety Executive publishes lots of free resources to help you get an understanding of the basics. 

But when it comes to effective risk management, risk assessment on its own, is not enough. Effective evaluation is of course an essential part of the process, but more so is managing the risks identified so as to control them. That’s why we partnered to develop this new qualification which gives people the practical know-how they need to confidently manage risk. And it’s all about being proportionate and sensible; bureaucracy, back-covering and form-filling have no place here! 

Pitfalls of risk assessment instead of risk management

The problem with many risk assessment activities is that the exercise often stops there, it’s introducing the controls that need to be given much more focus. I’ve listed some of the common pitfalls of risk assessment below – if you recognise even one of these then I think you’ll really find our new qualification beneficial to you, your colleagues and your organisation:

  • Carrying out a risk assessment to attempt to justify a decision that has already been made
  • Carrying out a risk assessment using inappropriate good practice
  • Only considering the risk from one activity
  • Ineffective use of consultants
  • Failure to identify all hazards associated with a particular activity
  • Not involving a team of people in the assessment, for example workers/those with practical knowledge
  • Not doing anything with the results of the assessment (by far the most common pitfall!)

An emphasis on ‘control’

During the qualification development process we focussed on bringing to life the latest thinking on health and safety risk management and have produced a qualification that will really help the majority of businesses. The result is a one-day (seven hour), introductory qualification that’s suitable for low to medium risk premises and helps these types of organisations to develop in-house health and safety risk management expertise. 

Suitable for almost any employee or team member, successful learners will understand: 

  • that risk management is about taking practical steps to protect people from real harm and suffering rather than a bureaucratic back covering exercise
  • how to identify hazards that may need controlling and the resources that can be used to assist in this
  • how to use simple tools and methods to confidently manage risk in low to medium risk premises
  • how to evaluate risks in a proportionate and sensible manner

We also place an emphasis on the steps people can take to ‘control’ risk. For one example using the James Reason Swiss Cheese Failure Model to illustrate how multiple independent barriers are always preferred over single or co-dependent barriers. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a NEBOSH qualification without a rigorous assessment process and we’ve developed an assessment that gives learners a realistic scenario so they can test their new skills in a practical setting. 

The NEBOSH HSE Award in Managing Risks and Risk Assessment at Work can be studied through NEBOSH’s global network of accredited Learning Partners, offering options for both online and classroom learning. For more information visit: where you can also download a sample of the qualification workbook. 

Matt Powell-Howard, is head of learning and partnerships at NEBOSH. For more information, visit