Is the new NCRQ better than NEBOSH Diploma or NVQ5?

We asked Helix Well Op Offshore Safety Advisor and OSPR member Barry Boyle, who has recently completed the course (with distinction!) to give us an overview.

My NCRQ Diploma

By Barry Boyle (Offshore Safety Advisor, Helix Well Ops UK)

Like most safety professionals starting out I took on the NEBOSH General Certificate and I can honestly say it nearly broke me. I’m an engineer to trade and at the time I transitioned to safety it felt like it was all about passing an exam by remembering keywords and sections of legislation. Once I passed the NEBOSH General Certificate I received my certificate, but I certainly didn’t feel like I had developed as a safety professional all that much. I really had no intention of going down the Diploma route if this was the way it had to be done within Health and Safety.

Then just over 2 Years ago I was offered voluntary redundancy due to the ongoing Oil and Gas downturn which has affected so many. I really wasn’t sure if I would ever get the opportunity to go back offshore or work in the Energy sector again. But luckily, after 3 months at home, I received a call from my old boss asking if I’d come back to work. I missed the offshore environment to be honest! I settled back into life offshore again fairly easily.

Something niggled at me though. What if I ever lost my job again? How would I fair against other Health & Safety Professionals onshore? What if my old boss hadn’t made the call that day and I had to face a normal application process? At this point I decided to investigate further safety training to enhance my knowledge and skills whilst achieving a certificate which demonstrated my abilities.

I remembered the NEBOSH General Certificate experience and I wasn’t inspired to take on the NEBOSH Diploma. That style of learning didn’t seem to fit with my brain. The NVQ5 was a possible alternative, but one day I came across the NCRQ website. The NCRQ’s qualifications are said to be ‘for the real world’. This certainly appealed to me. I was sold.

I signed up last summer and paid approx. £600 for the Certificate in Applied Health & Safety. The workbook arrived 2 days later and I started my journey of learning. I have to say at this point, I was apprehensive about the assignments (maybe more so my ability to achieve a level 6 qualification!).

The way the book grabbed my attention was nothing short of magical, it just makes you want to keep reading, to learn more and more. It teaches through discussing real workplace case studies and you keep learning as you go along. Simple as that.

Once I had finished the first 6 chapters I was ready for my 1st assignment. Or was I…? It happened to be a real-life scenario which I had to risk assess from start to finish. This course makes you realise it’s not about reciting laws, regs and rules, but more about research and providing proper advice. “For the real world” began to make sense.

During this assessment I didn’t really need any assistance from the tutor as I had plenty of experience in risk assessments, so I moved quickly on to the next few chapters. I was offshore at the time and using all my spare time to study. Fortunately, I have a very quiet office at night, so I could work through it whenever possible. The next assessment was a case study of a real life incident. I had to complete an incident investigation and recommend measures to ensure legal compliance and to prevent further injury/occurrence.

Again, on this occasion I did not require tutor support. I must add at this point, once you submit an assignment for marking, it can take up to 2 weeks to get the results so I moved on to next chapters to get a head start rather than wait.

The next assignment really did take me out my comfort zone. The assessment asked for me to give legal advice to 5 different clients on safety matters! However,  a bit of research and I found the solutions I required. The information is out there and I enjoyed discovering it.

The final assignment on this certificate was around Professional Development. By this time I was just waiting on final results for the last assessment.

I didn’t hang around once the validation interview confirmed I had completed the assessment criteria, I immediately signed up for the next Level 6 Certificate in Injury Prevention and Absence Reduction. This again cost in the region of £600. I should note that the first Certificate was awarded with Distinction and took me roughly 2 months to complete.

The next certificate goes into civil and criminal law and really is enjoyable to go through. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Normally the first sign of legislation analysis and I’m the 1st one who is fighting to stay awake! But, again it really was amazing how these real life scenarios and the case studies grabbed my attention. There are 5 assessments during this certificate and again should take 2 -3 months depending on how quick you wish to progress. After finishing these I managed to bag a Distinction overall.

The 2 Certificates already discussed are awarded at level 6 and so contribute to your overall aim – The Diploma. I then signed up for the final hurdle and again paid around £600. So in total £1800 to complete this Diploma from start to finish.

This part of the diploma only has one assignment, and by god is it a belter! You work your way through the book and finally arrive at the final assessment. Once you receive the final assessment piece you are given 6 weeks to complete it. You may think that’s a lot of time, believe me, the amount of research you end up doing in the 1st week alone is phenomenal, that’s before you’ve even put pen to paper. Seriously, this is where you become the Professional Safety Advisor. You are presented with an assignment and when you look at it, you can only see massive amounts of problems; you eventually have to solve all of them, in a ‘practicable’ way!

The best solution I found was to take it one step (Question) at a time, if you need tutor support to ensure you are going down the right track, ask for it. They are always glad to help. The tutor I had was a guy called Chris, who had 20 years under his belt as an HSE Inspector. The guy really knew his stuff, he certainly won’t give you the answers directly, but he did point me in the right direction on more than one occasion and guided me very well.

Believe me, when you finish this last assignment, you really do pray to god you’ve done enough. But theres a higher sense of achievement and confidence when you realise, if you can sort all the problems in this assignment you can sort any safety problems anywhere with a simple practicable approach.

Finally after 7 months of really enjoyable study I received the email to confirm I had met the criteria and had completed the final assessment with another distinction. This meant at validation my overall Diploma was awarded with Distinction.  I was delighted, considering my initial concerns and experience with the NEBOSH General Certificate.

Having completed the NCRQ Diploma in Applied Health & Safety I’m now eligible to upgrade my IOSH membership to GradIOSH and OSPR Level 5. More importantly, I feel I have the skills, knowledge and experience to tackle more complex safety roles in the future. It is my intention to broaden my horizons and hopefully secure another challenging role offshore in the oil & gas industry soon.

This wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t taken the steps and signed up to study with NCRQ. Would I recommend this route to anyone thinking of achieving a Diploma? Absolutely!!

To all my fellow OSPR members who studied hard through other routes e.g. NEBOSH Diploam or NVQ 5, please don’t think I’m taking anything away from these lines of qualification. This is not about who’s course is best or most difficult, I am simply giving an insight into how and why I chose to study with NCRQ and the enjoyment I had doing so.

Best Regards,

Barry Boyle (Offshore Safety Advisor, Helix Well Ops)

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