The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) improves safety and public confidence in aviation, marine and rail transport through our independent ‘no blame’ investigation of transport accidents and safety occurrences; safety data recording, analysis and research; and influencing safety action through fostering safety awareness.
Our aspirational vision is ‘Transport without accidents’.
Our mission is to improve transport safety for the greatest public benefit through our independent investigations and influencing safety action.
Established by the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act), the ATSB is an independent Commonwealth Government statutory agency, reporting to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.
We are governed by a Commission and are entirely separate from transport regulators (such as CASA, ONRSR and AMSA), government departments and policy makers (such as the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, and state departments of transport), and operators.
Our approximately 100 staff are based in our Canberra head office and our field offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Our 60 or so transport safety investigators and managers come from a range of transport industry, human factors and research backgrounds. Their investigation work is supported and enabled by our safety reporting and corporate support teams.
The ATSB is responsible for investigating accidents and transport safety occurrences involving Australian-registered civilian aircraft (excluding recreational and sport aviation), commercial shipping (Australian-flagged ships, plus shipping in Australian waters or en route to Australian ports), and rail operations in Australia (rail investigations are undertaken either directly by the ATSB, or, under a collaboration agreement, on our behalf under the TSI Act in NSW by the Office of Transport Safety Investigation or in Victoria by the Chief Investigator, Transport Safety).
We also participate in overseas investigations involving Australian-registered aircraft and Australian-flagged ships, and provide support to our international counterpart investigation agencies, particularly our near neighbours.
We prioritise our investigations to focus on accidents and incidents that have the potential to deliver the greatest public benefit through improvements to transport safety. We focus on the public interest where the safety of passengers and crew on an aircraft, train or ship is concerned, and when it comes to the significant costs that can result from an accident, particularly where there is significant damage to public infrastructure or an impact on the national economy.
Through our independent investigations, we seek to identify safety issues for action by organisations with the responsibility for managing that safety risk. Safety actions taken by operators, industry and regulators in response to safety issues and safety recommendations arising from our investigations reduce the risk of future accidents and incidents.
Our independence from regulators and policy makers means we do not have powers to force operators, manufacturers or regulators to take safety action. Instead we seek to influence safety action through engaging with our stakeholders, widely communicating our findings, and fostering awareness of safety issues and concerns.
Where we assess a safety issue has not been adequately addressed, we may issue a formal safety recommendation to the organisation with the responsibility for managing that risk.
ATSB investigations do not apportion blame or provide a means for determining liability, and we do not investigate for the purposes of taking administrative, regulatory or criminal action.
Our investigations are aimed at determining the factors which led to an accident or safety incident so that lessons can be learned and transport safety improved in the future. Our ability to conduct an investigation would be compromised if we sought to lay blame, as the future free-flow of safety information could not be guaranteed.
As such disciplinary action and criminal or liability assessment are not part of an ATSB safety investigation and would, if necessary, be progressed through separate parallel processes by regulatory authorities or the police.
The no blame approach also supports cooperation with the investigation process, and the reporting of safety occurrences.
Analysis and research
In addition to occurrence investigations, the ATSB also produces safety study investigations, safety data analysis reports, occurrence briefs, and safety education campaigns, and maintains a national information dataset of all safety-related occurrences in aviation.
The ATSB also manages the REPCON confidential reporting scheme, which allows any person who has an aviation, rail or marine transport safety concern to report it to the ATSB confidentially. The scheme is designed to capture safety concerns — including unsafe practices, procedures and risk controls within an organisation or affected part of the industry.