National safety investigation reforms

The National Safety Investigation Reforms project positions the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) as the national, no-blame safety investigator for rail from 20 January 2013.

The ATSB has expanded its activities in accordance with the scope afforded to it by the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act). This has extended the ATSB’s investigations to intrastate corporate operations, and has provided Australia with a safety regulation and investigation framework which equals international best practice models.

In maritime, governments have agreed the ATSB should look into making similar arrangements to work collaboratively with the existing state-based investigators in New South Wales and Victoria, as it has in rail.

Updates on the ATSB's progress will be posted on this page as they become available.


At its 19 August 2011 meeting, COAG agreed to an IGA establishing the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) as the national maritime safety regulator. AMSA will administer national safety legislation applying to Australia's domestic commercial vessel fleet from 1 January 2013.

To further enhance Australia's maritime safety regime, governments are considering a related proposal to establish the ATSB as the national no-blame maritime safety investigator.  At present, the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria undertake independent maritime safety investigations. The benefits of a national maritime safety investigator include:

  • a comprehensive national maritime safety system, comprising a national regulator and independent investigator, each operating under its respective national law. This would replicate the high-level arrangements agreed by COAG for rail and be similar to international best practice;
  • a consistent national approach to the selection and conduct of maritime safety investigations;
  • enhanced investigative capacity, including the investigation of serious maritime safety matters which are currently not independently investigated; and
  • the pooling of scarce investigatory resources and the direction of these resources to national priorities, to allow more effective and efficient national coverage.

The Australian Transport Council recognised the value of no-blame safety investigations at its May 2011 meeting. It agreed that no-blame safety investigations are an integral part of an effective national maritime safety system, and to the ATSB's collaborative management of no-blame maritime safety investigatory resources nationally under the TSI Act. The ATSB, in consultation with jurisdictions, undertook a cost and capability review in the first half of 2012 to inform resourcing discussions. Discussions are now underway between ATSB, NSW and Victoria into the way forward in forming a maritime collaboration agreement. Once this is complete discussions may be had about any further goals for the maritime industry safety investigation regime.


Until 20 January 2013, the safety of Australia's rail system was managed by different regulators and operators under different laws. There was only a restricted capacity for independent, no blame safety investigation. An integrated national transport safety framework ensures a consistent, efficient and coordinated approach to rail safety in Australia and, for the first time, the national operation of a single law for rail safety investigations.

Along with a national regulator for rail operators, a national investigator is a key component of an integrated transport safety system. While a regulator concentrates on assuring safety compliance and an operator manages safety risk, a national investigator reviews the overall safety system for deficiencies and recommends improvements.

In December 2009, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to establish a national rail safety regulator to modernise Australia's rail safety regulation system. The regulator will administer a single national Act that will encompass all aspects of rail safety including operations, equipment standards, hours of work, fatigue and worker health. COAG further agreed to extend the ATSB's role to operate as an enhanced national rail safety investigator covering corporate rail operators and those engaged in interstate operations.

On 19 August 2011, COAG agreed to the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on Rail Safety Regulation and Investigation Reform, which formalises the agreement between the Australian Government and State and Territory governments to establish a National Rail Safety Regulator, and expand the ATSB's role to cover rail safety investigations nationally from 1 January 2013.

With COAG's agreement to the IGA on Rail Safety Regulation and Investigation Reform, the ATSB can now formally begin the National Rail Safety Investigator implementation task.

Most, but not all States, will participate in the national rail safety regulator and investigator from 20 January 2013. This means that operators’ responsibilities from 20 January 2013 depend on their location, and whether they are included or exempt from the national regulator and investigator.

More information on the national rail safety investigator



Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator

National Maritime Safety Regulator


Last update 26 November 2018