Recent reforms to national rail safety legislation have resulted in changes to the way rail occurrences need to be reported in some states and territories.
Under the Rail Safety National Law (RSNL), and Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and Regulations, rail transport operators in South Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and New South Wales (and Victoria from 19 May 2014) must verbally report all Category A occurrences immediately to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) on the 24-hour notifications line, 1800 011 034.
After receiving a verbal notification, the ATSB will pass the details of the occurrence onto the ONRSR. Rail transport operators will then need to follow up Category A verbal reports with a written report to the ONRSR.
In response to the notification, the ATSB and ONRSR will take action according to their respective legislation. This could result in a no-blame safety investigation conducted by the ATSB and an operational or compliance investigation conducted by the ONRSR.
Rail transport operators in Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory should continue to report occurrences to the relevant state or territory rail safety regulator.
Inconsistencies with reporting
Following a review of the reports received by the ATSB and those received by ONRSR, the following major inconsistencies have been detected:
- Some Category A occurrences are being reported only in written form to the ONRSR with no verbal notification to the ATSB.
- Some notifiable occurrences reported by the operator as a Category B occurrence to the ONRSR are Category A occurrences and, therefore, by law are required to be reported immediately to the ATSB.
These inconsistencies are not isolated to one or two operators and cover a number of occurrence types. The ATSB and ONRSR remind operators of their responsibilities under the law, links to which are included below. Operators failing to report Category A occurrences to the ATSB immediately following an occurrence may be subject to penalty.
Reporting running line derailments
Under the RSNL a running line derailment is a Category A occurrence. Despite this, there have been multiple occasions where running line derailments have not been reported as required to the ATSB. The Occurrence Notification Standard (ON-S1) is clear on the definition of a running line occurrence which includes “Occurrences in a yard or siding that results in the running line being obstructed or interferes with the safe operation of a running line”. Operators should be aware of this definition alongwith others in ON-S1 relating to Category A occurrences.
Reporting serious injuries
Under the RSNL, occurrences resulting in serious injury are classified as Category A. The ON-S1 standard specifies that railway organisations use their “best endeavours, noting that this may involve a judgement decision based on information available at the time of notification, to confirm the status of casualties in respect to…Serious personal injury to confirm admission to hospital”. This means that only injuries that result in hospital admission should be reported as serious (Category A). Operators should review their reporting arrangements to ensure they are aligned with this guidance.
Copies of ON-S1 can be found on the ONRSR website at:
Applicable legislation can be found here:
The ATSB has summarised the verbal reporting requirements for each state/territory on its website at:
For more information on reporting requirements email the ONRS: