The ATSB receives around 15,000 notifications of Aviation occurrences each year, 8,000 of which are accidents, serious incidents and incidents. It also receives a lesser number of similar occurrences in the Rail and Marine transport sectors. It is from the information provided in these notifications that the ATSB makes a decision on whether or not to investigate. While some further information is sought in some cases to assist in making those decisions, resource constraints dictate that a significant amount of professional judgement is needed to be exercised.
There are times when more detailed information about the circumstances of the occurrence allows the ATSB to make a more informed decision both about whether to investigate at all and, if so, what necessary resources are required (investigation level). In addition, further publically available information on accidents and serious incidents increases safety awareness in the industry and enables improved research activities and analysis of safety trends, leading to more targeted safety education.
The Short Investigation Team gathers additional factual information on aviation accidents and serious incidents (with the exception of 'high risk operations¹), and similar Rail and Marine occurrences, where the initial decision has been not to commence a 'full' (level 1 to 4) investigation.
The primary objective of the team is to undertake limited-scope, fact gathering investigations, which result in a short summary report. The summary report is a compilation of the information the ATSB has gathered, sourced from individuals or organisations involved in the occurrences, on the circumstances surrounding the occurrence and what safety action may have been taken or identified as a result of the occurrence.
These reports are released publically. In the aviation transport context, the reports are released periodically in a Bulletin format.
Conducting these Short investigations has a number of benefits:
- Publication of the circumstances surrounding a larger number of occurrences enables greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety action.
- The additional information gathered results in a richer source of information for research and statistical analysis purposes that can be used both by ATSB research staff as well as other stakeholders, including the portfolio agencies and research institutions.
- Reviewing the additional information serves as a screening process to allow decisions to be made about whether a full investigation is warranted. This addresses the issue of 'not knowing what we don't know' and ensures that the ATSB does not miss opportunities to identify safety issues and facilitate safety action.
- In cases where the initial decision was to conduct a full investigation, but which, after the preliminary evidence collection and review phase, later suggested that further resources are not warranted, the investigation may be finalised with a short factual report.
- It assists Australia to more fully comply with its obligations under ICAO Annex 13 to investigate all aviation accidents and serious incidents.
- Publicises Safety Messages aimed at improving awareness of issues and good safety practices to both the transport industries and the travelling public.