An annual audit is required in order to confirm the validity of a risk assessment, where there may have been a significant change in the matters to which it relates. The audit updates the risk assessment so that it is valid and up-to-date.
Regulation 3(3) of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 specifically states that any assessment shall be reviewed by the employer or person who made it if:
- there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid
- there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates
Where, as a result of any such review, changes to an assessment are required, the employer or person concerned shall make them.
It is a requirement that the audit be carried out by a competent person. Failure to comply with this requirement may render an audit as non-conforming and void. On a practical level, the main benefit of an audit is to reduce the likelihood of hazards – both exiting and newly identified – resulting in harm.
On a legal level, the main benefit of carrying out an audit is that if a worst-case scenario does happen and a hazard does result in harm, your organisation will have a legal defence.
These benefits rely on the recommendations made in the audit being acted on within a reasonable timeframe.