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Overview of the ATSB

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is Australia's national transport safety investigator. The ATSB's function is to improve safety and public confidence in the aviation, marine and rail modes of transport.

The ATSB is Australia's prime agency for the independent investigation of civil aviation, rail and maritime accidents, incidents and safety deficiencies.

 

 

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The ATSB is established by the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act) and conducts its investigations in accordance with the provisions of the Act. Under the TSI Act, it is not a function of the ATSB to apportion blame or provide a means for determining liability. The ATSB does not investigate for the purpose of taking administrative, regulatory or criminal action.

The organisation

The Bureau's Commission is constituted by a full-time Commissioner and two part-time Commissioners.  Additional part-time Commissioners may be appointed where their expertise is required for a significant investigation.

The ATSB's staff (approximately 110) includes about 60 aviation, marine and rail safety investigators. Most are based in Canberra. Field offices are located in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

ATSB staff are also employed in areas covering notification and confidential reporting, as well as research and analysis (particularly in aviation safety).

The ATSB is a member of key safety bodies which include: the International Transportation Safety Association (ITSA); International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI); Flight Safety Foundation (FSF); and the Marine Accident Investigators' International Forum (MAIIF).

The Australian context

Australians travel vast distances by air, sea, rail and road.

Transport activity grows as the economy grows. All sectors rely on transport to move products and provide services.

Although Australia has an impressive safety record, as transport activity increases, so does the risk of accidents and incidents.

The Australian government, State and Territory governments, local governments, industry and other stakeholders work collaboratively on transport safety.

The ATSB and transport safety

The ATSB's accident investigation role is a fundamental part of Australia's transport safety framework. Lessons arising from the investigations conducted by the ATSB are used to reduce the risk of future accidents and incidents through the implementation of safety action by industry and the Government.

The independence of the ATSB is integral to the Bureau's safety role. Investigations that are independent of the parties involved in an accident, as well as transport regulators and government policy makers, are better positioned to avoid conflicts of interest and external interference. Being able to investigate without external direction provides an assurance that the findings will be determined and fully reported on without bias.

Bureau publications include reports on the facts and findings of investigations, safety research material, and statistics. Reports often contain safety action and recommendations for authorities and other parties to address in the interests of safety improvements.

Aviation

Australia's development as a nation through the twentieth century was closely linked to the development of the aviation industry. This industry has helped us overcome vast internal distances and geographical isolation from the rest of the world.

The ATSB is responsible for the independent investigation of accidents and incidents involving civil aircraft in Australia. The ATSB's primary focus is the safety of the travelling public. However, all accidents and incidents related to flight safety in Australia or involving Australian registered aircraft overseas must be reported to the ATSB. While the ATSB does not investigate all of these, it still needs to be notified so that the data can be recorded for possible future safety research and analysis. Please call the toll-free number 1800 011 034 to notify the ATSB of such accidents or incidents.

Australia is a member of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is made up of 190 countries. The ATSB has frequently assisted with international investigations, including through the analysis of flight-recorder ('black box') data.

Marine

Marine transport accounts for the vast majority of imports and exports of cargo in and out of Australia, and also plays a significant role through coastal trade. Cruise shipping is also a growth industry.

The ATSB conducts marine investigations into accidents and serious incidents involving Australian registered ships anywhere in the world, foreign flag ships within Australian waters, or where evidence relating to an accident involving ships is found in Australia. Accidents and serious incidents must be reported as soon as practicable to the ATSB. Often such a report will be made through the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). If you wish to report a marine accident or incident, you may contact the Australian Search and Rescue (AusSAR) on 1800 641 792 or the ATSB on 1800 011 034.

Australia is also a council member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and actively participates in its forums on accident investigations in the interests of making global improvements to shipping safety.

Rail

The Defined Interstate Rail Network (DIRN) is a vital part of the nation's transport infrastructure, providing an important alternative to road transport for Australia's increasing freight distribution. Because of this national significance, the ATSB investigates rail accidents and serious incidents that occur on the DIRN.

The ATSB helps make significant improvements in interstate rail safety through its investigations. It widely disseminates its findings through the public release of its reports, making its safety findings accessible in all jurisdictions.

Noting, though, that the regulatory responsibility for rail safety is with the states and the Northern Territory (NT), accidents and serious incidents that occur on the DIRN must be reported as soon as practicable to the relevant state or NT rail safety authority. The ATSB is then informed for the purpose of the ATSB determining whether or not to investigate. If reporting directly to the ATSB, call the toll-free number 1800 011 034.

Legislative framework

The TSI Act allows the ATSB to investigate transport safety matters in the aviation, marine and rail transport modes within the Australian Government's constitutional jurisdiction. The Act contains powers for the release of transport safety information, including investigation reports that detail the findings and significant factors that led to a particular transport safety occurrence.

A comprehensive regime of provisions within the TSI Act is in place to maintain the confidentiality of, and legal protection for, a range of sensitive safety information obtained by ATSB investigators.  ATSB investigation reports and most evidence collected during an investigation cannot be used in civil or criminal proceedings.  ATSB investigation reports may be used in coronial inquiries for the purpose of improving safety.

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Last update 18 February 2014