The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is an operationally independent body that has investigated, analysed and reported on transport safety since 1999. It operates within a defined legal framework and is a business division within the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.
The ATSB undertakes independent accident and incident investigations and analyses of safety data. It has a clear organisational separation from transport regulators such as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Airservices Australia (Australia’s air traffic service provider), rail authorities, and other parties that may need to be investigated.
The Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act) and associated regulations came into force on 1 July 2003. It updated the ATSB’s powers of aviation and marine investigation and extended them to include the defined interstate rail network. The Act reinforces the ATSB’s operational independence to conduct ‘no blame’ safety investigations. It also emphasises the importance placed on cooperation with other Australian Government and state bodies including regulators and state coroners as an appropriate way to improve system safety.
Australia is a member of the 36-strong council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which is made up of 190 states (countries), and has frequently assisted with international investigations, including through analysis of ‘black box’ data.
Like the US National Transportation Safety Board and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the ATSB is a member of the International Transportation Safety Association (ITSA) and the International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI). In marine transportation, the ATSB is an active member of the Marine Accident Investigators International Federation (MAIIF) and the Flag State Implementation Subcommittee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The ATSB is responsible for independent investigations of accidents, incidents and safety deficiencies involving civil aircraft in Australia. This role is performed under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.
A policy of selective investigation is followed. Resources are concentrated on detailed analysis of occurrences which offers the greatest potential to enhance aviation safety. The ATSB is also empowered to assist in investigations of accidents and serious incidents involving Australian-registered aircraft overseas.
All accidents and incidents related to flight safety in Australia or by Australian operators must be reported to the ATSB and they are incorporated into a safety database. The ATSB also administers an aviation confidential safety reporting process.
The ATSB conducts aviation safety research in accord with obligations to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago 1944) under Annex 13 and publishes research reports into its findings, which may include recommendations for the improvement of aviation safety.
Marine transport accounts for the majority of Australian cargo imports and exports, and plays a major role in interstate trade. Marine investigations are conducted into incidents suspected to have occurred to Australian registered ships anywhere in the world, foreign flagships within the Australian territorial sea, or where evidence related to an accident is found in Australia. Marine incidents, as defined by the Transport Safety Investigation Regulations 2003 include:
- death or serious injury aboard a ship
- the ship being lost, presumed lost or abandoned
- the ship being stranded or disabled
- the ship being involved in a collision
The ATSB’s marine investigation reports and other safety and educational material are widely distributed. Specific campaigns are conducted to promote marine safety and enhance industry awareness in Australia and internationally. The ATSB also administers a marine confidential safety reporting process.
The Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 enables the ATSB to conduct rail accident and incident investigations on the defined interstate rail network for both passenger and freight trains. The bureau is also requested from time to time to lead or assist in specific rail investigations within state jurisdictions. The ATSB maintains and publishes a national rail safety occurrence database. It also undertakes safety awareness promotion arising from the findings of related investigations such as those involving level crossing accidents.
Since 2008, road safety issues are managed by a separate unit within the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Road safety activities include research projects to improve national road safety, research and statistical analysis, coordination of the National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan and publication of road fatality statistics.
The ATSB produces and distributes a range of safety information in the form of reports, brochures, discs and video. This includes reports on the facts and conclusions of investigations, safety educational material, and statistics. Investigation reports will often contain recommendations for authorities and parties to action for improved safety. These reports can be found on the Australian Transport Safety Bureau website together with information about the ATSB and current activities.
last updated June 2008