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Reporting accidents and incidents—getting the facts straight

By Martin Dolan, Chief CommissionerMartin Dolan

As the national transport safety investigator, the ATSB is the Australian Government agency you need to notify in the event of a transport accident or incident. 

The information we get from these notifications not only helps us determine whether to investigate an occurrence, but it also gives us a bigger picture of overall safety trends and patterns. We can use the information from reports to discover and prevent broader, systemic safety problems. 

The ATSB recently conducted research that revealed some areas of industry are under reporting certain types of occurrences by up to 40 per cent. This is an ongoing concern that we’ve highlighted in our SafetyWatch initiative. Underreporting means there are potential transport safety hot spots that we don’t know about and can’t alert industry to.

...the ATSB investigates accidents and incidents to find out what happened so it doesn’t happen again. We don’t investigate to lay blame.

I can appreciate that some operators may be reluctant to report an accident or incident to us because they’re concerned about the consequences of doing so. Let me be clear about this: the ATSB investigates accidents and incidents to find out what happened so it doesn’t happen again. We don’t investigate to lay blame.

I can also understand operators’ concerns about mandatory-reporting information that we may need to pass onto regulators to improve the overall safety system. We heard these concerns loud and clear when we consulted with industry last year about our information sharing arrangements with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

In response to aviation industry feedback, the head of CASA, John McCormick, and I signed a joint policy statement that clarifies the information sharing arrangements between our two agencies. The statement outlines what information is shared along with the limits of what CASA can do with the information. It’s important to note that the statement explicitly states that:

CASA may use information reported under the mandatory scheme as the basis for informing its need to initiate its own inquiries in the interests of safety. However, CASA will not rely on the report in taking action unless it is necessary to do so in the demonstrable interests of safety and where there is no alternative source of the information practicably available to CASA. 

Our information sharing arrangement with CASA is part of a healthy and mature system of safety with the ultimate aim of improving transport safety rather than blaming individuals. I encourage you to read the statement.

Written by Martin Dolan, Chief Commissioner at 11:00 AM


Robert said...

Well, after reading this my suspicions of the ATSB have grown. What are you trying so hard to cover up? After the Senate inquiry I had concerns, now I am alarmed. I will certainly think twice before reporting minor occurrences. What is the ATSB hiding? It's a shame the survey has closed, I would have voiced my concerns there.

June 12, 2013 19:31
Martin Dolan, Chief Commissioner (author) said...

I’m very keen to make the overall notifications process as transparent as possible so everyone understands why it’s important to report occurrences to the ATSB. As I mentioned in the blog post, we’ve been consulting widely on our reporting regulations with the aviation industry. In response to that feedback, the ATSB produced an information sharing arrangement document with CASA that gives industry greater clarity on what happens with occurrence notifications. We always welcome suggestions and feedback. You can provide comments by completing the feedback form on the ATSB website, emailing  atsbinfo@atsb.gov.au  or calling 1800 020 616. 

June 13, 2013 16:07
Geoff Chatfield said...

Dear Sir
As a person not activly involved in aviation as my employment but as an avid aviation enthusiast I am using all relevant information for research and for historical sake but I find your wording in the final paragraph of you Blog can I say interesting.
It was not that long ago that both organizations were at log a heads with each other now we find that for reasons known only to the powers that be in CASA they (CASA) with held important and relavant information.
From a laymans point of veiw I would not call this sort of thing as being a healthy and mature system.

June 13, 2013 20:21