Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Section 1: Agency overview and resources

1.1: Strategic direction statement

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, in particular by receiving information on accidents and other safety occurrences and by investigating selected occurrences so as to identify and communicate factors that affect or might affect 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. 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.

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 liability;
  • 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 the safety of the travelling public.

For many occurrences, the contributing factors and safety issues are already well-known so there is unlikely to be any significant safety benefit that would warrant an extensive investigation. In those cases, the ATSB may limit itself to a fact-gathering 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 investigating these sorts of safety occurrence.

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 programme 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. The ATSB will work closely with regulators and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to ensure arrangements are in place for the appropriate sharing and use of safety information and that these arrangements are transparent to industry and consistent with a strong reporting culture.

Commitment to safety research, communication and education

The ATSB will publish its safety research programme for the financial year including a list of all active and proposed safety research projects. This programme 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.

Safety awareness priorities

The ATSB Safety Watch initiative highlights priority areas where safety risk can be reduced. These priority areas are determined through analysis of ATSB investigation findings and of the occurrence data reported by industry. The ATSB will engage with the transport community to give heightened attention to these priority areas:

  1. Avoidable accidents in general aviation;
  2. Safe work on rail;
  3. Safety around non-towered aerodromes;
  4. Maritime pilotage;
  5. Data input errors in aviation;
  6. Handling an aircraft's approach to land;
  7. Under-reporting of safety occurrences;
  8. Safer marine work practices; and
  9. Flying visually at night.
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 including 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.

The ATSB will consider the outcomes of the peer review by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada of the ATSB's investigation methodologies and processes.

Active participation in the transport reform agenda

The ATSB will work with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to contribute to the government's reform agenda to improve the efficiency, safety, sustainability and competitiveness of the aviation, marine and rail industries.

The ATSB will complete the transition to being the national rail safety investigator, as established through the Council of Australian Governments' Intergovernmental Agreement on Rail Safety Regulation and Investigation Reform.

The ATSB will also work collaboratively with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development and other safety agencies to assist government in implementing the outcomes of its Aviation Safety Regulation Review.

1.2: Agency resource statement

Table 1.1 shows the total resources from all sources.

Table 1.1: Agency resource statement—Budget estimates for 2014–15 as at Budget May 2014

1.3: Budget measures

Budget measures in Part 1 relating to ATSB are detailed in Budget Paper No. 2 and are summarised below.

Table 1.2: Agency 2014–15 Budget measures

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Budget 2014-15