Australian Transport Safety Bureau
Section 1: Agency overview and resources
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is established under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 as the national transport safety investigation agency.
Its primary function is to improve aviation, marine and rail safety.
The ATSB is also required to cooperate with other parties that have powers relating to transport safety or functions affected by the ATSB’s priority of improving transport safety. The ATSB is independent and operates on a ‘no blame’ basis: it is prevented from apportioning blame or providing the means to determine liability in transport safety matters.
In discharging its functions of improving transport safety and cooperating with others, the ATSB will:
- focus its resources where they are most likely to result in safety improvements;
- harness the expertise and information necessary to its safety role;
- conduct impartial, systemic and timely safety investigations;
- identify safety issues based on evidence and expert analysis;
- report safety issues clearly and objectively, without attributing blame or liabilit;.
- ensure the significance of safety issues is clearly understood by all concerned; and
- promote effective safety action.
Key elements of the ATSB’s strategic direction
Building capability and effectiveness
The ATSB's highest operational priority is to undertake those investigations of accidents and safety occurrences that have the greatest potential to deliver improved transport safety outcomes, with a particular focus on fare–paying mass passenger transport operations.
For many occurrences, the contributing factors and safety issues are well known and there are likely to be few benefits or safety lessons to warrant an extensive investigation. In those cases, the ATSB may undertake a limited fact–gathering investigation only (Short Investigation). Equally, there is often as much or more to be learned from serious incidents or patterns of incident as there is from accidents and, where appropriate, the ATSB will give priority to those sorts of investigation.
The ATSB is committed to ensuring it attracts, retains and develops transport safety professionals who consistently carry out thorough, timely and authoritative investigations. The ATSB will also ensure it is able to effectively respond to a major accident within Australia or to an accident involving an Australian air carrier or ship overseas through training, participation in regular emergency exercises and contingency planning and by maintaining an active program of international and regional engagement.
Strengthening stakeholder relationships
The ATSB will focus on ways to improve dialogue, coordination and cooperation while protecting the independence of its investigation function. This work will have three areas of focus: other safety agencies (including coroners and overseas counterpart agencies); transport industry participants; and the travelling public. This will include updates of extant Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) and the establishment of new MOUs where these are seen as beneficial.
Commitment to safety research, communication and education
The ATSB will publish its safety research program for the financial year including a list of all active and proposed safety research projects. This program may be updated during the financial year to reflect changes to priorities and scope. The ATSB will continue to publish educational material aimed at line operators and others based on the analysis of occurrence data and in–house expertise.
Consistent with its legislative framework and international requirements, the ATSB will cooperate with state, national and international safety agencies to share safety data and intelligence to allow all parties to better perform their safety functions.
The ATSB will work with the new national rail safety regulator, existing state rail jurisdictions, and industry to ensure that a national rail occurrence database that reflects the needs of the regulator, investigator and industry, is operational by 2013, including the population of agreed historical data.
Safety awareness priorities
The ATSB has identified nine safety awareness priorities across aviation, marine and rail. Based largely on data surrounding accident and incident trends, the priorities represent significant safety concerns the ATSB will proactively address through communications in 201213. These priorities are:
- Avoidable accidents series (mainly targeting general aviation pilots and operators)
- Handling of approach to land (targeting regular passenger transport pilots and operators)
- Data input errors (targeting regular passenger transport pilots and operators)
- Safety in the vicinity of non–towered aerodromes (focusing on both regular passenger transport and general aviation operators and pilots).
- Safe work on rail (targeting rail workers and operators)
- Marine pilotage (targeting ship crew and operators).
- Human factors—why mistakes happen and how they can be avoided (targeting travelling public, media, transport industry)
- Notifying the ATSB of accidents and incidents and transport safety concerns (targeting general transport industry)
- General awareness of the ATSB and its overall role in improving safety (targeting travelling public, media and transport industry).
Regional and international engagement
The ATSB will play an active and targeted role in international engagement and regional development. As well as fulfilling its international obligations, the ATSB will work cooperatively with our regional neighbours to assist them to improve transport safety.
The ATSB will actively participate in Australian Government regional transport safety initiatives such as the Indonesian Transport Safety Assistance Package (ITSAP); and cooperation with Papua New Guinea, consistent with the MOU on Cooperation in the Transport Sector.
The ATSB will engage with overseas counterparts and with relevant international organisations. The focus will be on ensuring that safety lessons and operational innovations are shared internationally and on collaborating to improve the international standards for accident investigation. In addition, continuous improvement will be sought through benchmarking and networking with like overseas agencies. Subject to resource constraints, the ATSB is building on its efforts and initiative to more fully meet the international expectation that all aviation accidents and serious incidents be investigated.
Active participation in the transport reform agenda
The ATSB will work with the Department of Infrastructure and Transport to contribute to the government's regulatory reform agenda to improve the efficiency, safety, sustainability and competitiveness of the aviation, marine and rail industries.
As part of the reforms to rail safety, the Council of Australian Governments has agreed that the ATSB will enhance its national role of investigating rail accidents across Australia from 1 January 2013.The Government has previously approved funding to enable the ATSB to prepare for a national role as Australia’s no–blame rail safety investigator and to work towards agreement for a similar role in marine transport.
To support the development of arrangements for maritime safety investigation as part of the national reforms, $3.4m of funding previously approved for appropriation in 2012–13 has been deferred so that it better aligns with the likely progress of reform. This will enable progression and implementation of the maritime efforts to potentially expand the ATSB’s role from only investigating accidents involving Australian registered, interstate and overseas trading ships to include all corporately owned commercial vessels operating in state waters.
Table 1.1 shows the total resources from all sources.
Budget measures relating to ATSB are detailed in Budget Paper No. 2 and are summarised below.