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Health and Safety NVQs

Unlike health and safety training courses and qualifications that rely on teaching and examinations, a health and safety NVQ uses performance on the job as a basis for assessment, and recognises the competence of a person in a work situation.

Because the health and safety NVQ is work-based, and involves the collection of evidence from your normal day to day activities, candidates must be in a role that allows them to provide this in order to undertake a health and safety NVQ qualification, which is a key difference between an NVQ and traditional classroom-based health and safety training. Candidates must be in a health and safety managerial position, able to influence the policy and practice of their organisation.

View NVQ Qualifications

Not currently in a health and safety job role? Consider the NEBOSH National Diploma qualification instead.

NVQ Diploma Level 6 in Occupational Health and Safety Practice

The NVQ Diploma Level 6 in Occupational Health and Safety Practice is a bachelor's degree-level vocational health and safety qualification, that does not require classroom attendance.

As this is a degree-level qualification, a level of existing formal health and safety knowledge is strongly recommended. Ideally, you will already have passed a Level 3 health and safety qualification such as a NEBOSH General Certificate for example.

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A senior manager inspecting machinery in the workplace

NVQ Diploma Level 5 in Occupational Health and Safety Practice

The NVQ Diploma Level 5 in Occupational Health and Safety Practice is aimed at health and safety practitioners who wish to achieve a formal qualification in occupational safety and health management.

It is also ideal for those wishing to progress to a career in health and safety, and for those seeking Chartered Membership of IOSH.

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A female construction site manager wearing a protective hard hat

Related NVQ Article:

An NVQ Causes Minimal Disruption to Work Activities


The overwhelming majority of employers will know and understand that staff training and development is essential for continued commercial success. Not only is it important for improving upon already satisfactory performance, but training in certain areas such as health and safety is a legal requirement in the majority of countries across the globe.

However whilst managers and employers may recognise the necessity of employee training, it is quite another matter as to whether they are willing and/or able to let some of their workforce take time away from the workplace and suffer the subsequent drop in output or service levels that would ensue. This is due to two main issues:-

  • The disruption to normal operations
  • The initial cost of the training

No Travel Costs with an NVQ

One of the main disadvantages of classroom health and safety training courses is the requirement for taking time away from the workplace and travelling to the course venue. Not only can it be inconvenient, but for many individuals it is impossible to get their employer to agree to the time off necessary to attend the training.

As a compromise, a large number of students attempt lengthy health and safety qualifications like the NEBOSH General Certificate or the NEBOSH Diploma as online or distance learning courses. Attempting such a comprehensive qualification in this way, with so much information to learn for the assessments, is extremely difficult and typically results in large amounts of wasted time and money.

A number of candidates are tempted by the appeal of e-learning or distance learning courses for the NEBOSH General Certificate or Diploma, but this is an extremely difficult format for trying to achieve such a comprehensive health and safety qualification and not really suitable for the vast majority of individuals.

Although many people will enjoy the opportunity to get away from the workplace, and maybe even see a new city which they have never visited or explored before, for others the prospect of having to travel to a training course will not be something which they look forward to. The amount of travelling necessary will depend upon the distance between where the person resides and where the course is taking place. Sometimes this will just involve time taken to travel to and from the venue each day from a person's home, whereas other times there will be a requirement to stay over in a hotel because the distance is too great.

No Accommodation Costs Either

Travelling to attend an external training can also be quite expensive. Not only does the journey itself cost money in terms of petrol or train/air fares for example, but for courses which are run over more than one day there may also be the requirement for accommodation if the venue is too far for the delegate to travel there and back each day. For courses like the NEBOSH General Certificate which are run over ten days, staying in a hotel for ten nights will probably cost almost as much as the course itself.

A course like the NEBOSH Diploma which is run over many weeks will require a lot of time to be spent on travelling to and from the venue, especially if it is being conducted far away from where the individual lives.

For those who would find it difficult, impractical or just plain impossible to travel in order to attend a health and safety course, a credible alternative option is the undertaking of an NVQ qualification in occupational health and safety. A health and safety NVQ relies upon the collection of evidence which is gathered by a person as they go about their normal workplace activities. As such, there is no need to travel to an external training venue. Ironically, there is a requirement for an NVQ assessor to perform at least one site visit, so the assessor actually comes to the student rather than the other way around!

The NVQ route is only accessible though to those who are currently in a job role that enables them to influence the health and safety policies and practices of their organisation. This means that it will not be an option for a lot of people, but for those who are eligible, an NVQ is a credible alternative to a course such as the NEBOSH General, rather than trying to attempt it sat in front of a computer screen learning pages and pages of text, or spreading it out over months sending work back and forth.

Disruption to Normal Operations

Because profit is the number one objective for the majority of businesses, owners and managers will frequently do all they can to improve it by minimising costs. One such way is not having more staff than are required to perform the tasks which need to be done. This is fine when everyone is at work and performing at full capacity, but can frequently lead to problems as factors such as illness, holidays, meetings with suppliers/customers etc means that it is rare for everyone to be present in the business or department on any given day.

Arranging training courses can cause problems no matter how many people are attending. If it is for a large percentage of the workforce, or indeed all of them, then even though training should make them much more productive, efficient and motivated in the future, it will cause severe short-term disruption to current activities. Even having one or two employees absent from the workplace to attend training courses can damage short-term profitability, output and levels of service if there is no one able to cover for them (or, more likely, someone will try but they will not be as proficient in this role as the absent employee is). Many managers are not willing to create such disruption intentionally through letting employees attend training courses.

The Initial Cost of the Training

Perhaps the biggest obstacle which prevents workers receiving the training and development they need is not the lack of available resources in terms of personnel to provide cover, but because managers cannot, or are unwilling, to see how the long-term benefits more than outweigh the initial cost of the training.

Of course, for some it may be the case that the money to pay for the training is simply not available, no matter how much they wish to put their worker(s) onto a course.

For the majority however it is down to the fact that they fail to understand how factors such as increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, safer working environments, higher motivation and an increased will for the business to succeed all contribute significantly to the overall profitability of the company. Therefore training and development courses which improve upon these factors can provide a tremendous return on investment as much more money is brought in as a result of the training than it originally cost.

How Does an NVQ Solve These Problems?

Unlike classroom-based health and safety training courses where a delegate needs to attend at a venue, a health and safety NVQ qualification depends upon collecting evidence which is gathered by an individual as they go about their usual workplace activities. This means that there is minimal disruption and impact upon the business as they are still present and performing the tasks required of them.

If the company is paying for the course, an NVQ will probably also work out cheaper for them as there is no need for travel, accommodation or subsistence expenses. On long courses these expenses alone can end up being almost as much as the course itself.

Rather than trying to muddle through a NEBOSH Diploma or NEBOSH General Certificate course on your own via a distance learning or online learning format, opting for a health and safety NVQ qualification is an ideal alternative for those who desire an accredited health and safety qualification but cannot (or do not want to) be out of the workplace for such a long time to attend a tutor-led classroom training course.

With a health and safety NVQ however there is no need to travel anywhere as this qualification depends upon the collection of evidence which is accumulated as the worker performs their usual job. So not only does this avoid the need for travel, but it also allows the individual to perform the work necessary to achieve such a recognised qualification without the need to be absent from the workplace in order to attend the training.

How is an NVQ Different from a Distance Learning Course?

Some people are tempted into enrolling on distance learning or e-learning NEBOSH courses because, unlike classroom courses, they too do not involve any travelling or accommodation costs (except maybe when it comes to taking the exams that is). However, unlike an NVQ which is centred around the collection of evidence whilst performing workplace duties, NEBOSH courses are more traditional in that the syllabus teaches a lot of information which needs to be learnt for the written examinations.

Trying to learn all of this information on your own without the constant support of a course tutor in the room with you can be extremely difficult, especially spending hours reading it all off a computer screen! Those spreading it out over a long period of time and/or taking the course by one of these formats will be making life much harder for themselves in terms of successfully passing what is already a difficult qualification to achieve.

In a Health and Safety Role? Choose an NVQ!

For those who are unable to attend a classroom NEBOSH General Certificate course a more viable option is the undertaking of a health and safety NVQ qualification. Instead of having to attend classroom training sessions and listen to the information being taught by a course tutor, a health and safety NVQ relies upon evidence collected during the normal activities of a person's job role. Not only does this mean that they do not have to travel and take time away from the workplace to achieve the qualification, but a worker can carry on making a positive contribution towards their business by performing their usual workplace duties at the same time as working towards a recognised health and safety qualification!

Obviously this means though that only those individuals that are currently in a role which enables them to fulfil the criteria of the NVQ and collect the necessary evidence are eligible to enrol upon a health and safety NVQ, unlike a NEBOSH General Certificate course which does not have any formal pre-requisites and is in fact designed to be suitable even for those with little or no previous health and safety training or knowledge of the subject. Whilst this may limit the field in terms of those individuals able to opt for an NVQ rather than a classroom course, for those that are eligible it provides an extremely attractive and worthwhile alternative to a NEBOSH course or an equivalent which would otherwise require many days to be taken away from the workplace.

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