ATSB opens consultation for reporting legislation update

Regulation consultation

New categories of aircraft operations, additional responsible persons, and harmonised definitions with domestic and international standards are drafted in proposed updates to Australia’s Transport Safety Investigation Regulations.

The ATSB is calling on its aviation, marine and rail stakeholders to take part in the consultation process to help shape the next update of Australia’s Transport Safety Investigation (TSI) legislation.

Under the TSI Act, The TSI Regulations define what occurrences are reportable to the ATSB, how urgently they should be reported, what form a report must take, and who is responsible for making a report.

The ATSB has released an Exposure Draft and Consultation Paper detailing proposed amendments. This is towards finalising the new Regulations by mid-2022, for commencement at the start of 2023.

The proposed changes have been prepared by the ATSB working closely with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, and have been shaped by the ATSB’s ongoing work, a series of past consultations in 2019 and 2021, and continuous engagement with industry stakeholders.

“Broadly speaking, the proposed changes aim to bring transport safety investigation legislation in line with industry and international standards, and help the ATSB maximise its ability to improve transport safety, without placing undue burden on industry,” ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said.

Among the six issues discussed in the Consultation Paper is the proposed recategorisation of aircraft operations, to prioritise them in four distinct categories.

New, clear definitions for aircraft accidents and incidents would then prescribe what occurrences need to be immediately reported, or routinely reported, for each category of operation, with higher categorisations bearing a stricter reporting standard.

“The Statement of Expectations, provided to the ATSB by the Minister, makes it clear we should use our resources for the greatest public safety benefit,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Ensuring the greatest focus is on receiving reports with the highest potential to improve safety, is in line with that directive.”

The proposed changes would also extend the persons who are responsible to report occurrences in the aviation and marine sectors.

In aviation, this would include sport aviation bodies and insurers of aircraft as responsible persons. In marine, pilotage providers and vessel traffic service authorities would be added.

“It’s important to note that, as with the existing framework, a responsible person only has to report an occurrence if they have a reasonable belief that no other responsible person has reported the matter,” Mr Mitchell noted.

“For example, if an aircraft is damaged in an incident, and the insurer receives assurance from the pilot that the occurrence has been reported, the insurer would not have to report that incident.

“But the goal of this change is to make sure that accountability is there, and ultimately reduce the number of occurrences that are not reported to the ATSB.”

One welcome proposal for all operators will be the extension of written reporting timeframes from within 72 hours to within 7 days. This will form part of a separate package of work to amend the TSI Act.

“This proposal relates to the written report, which follows the initial notification via telephone as soon as possible after an occurrence,” Mr Mitchell explained.

“Considering prior consultation and stakeholder engagement, the ATSB is of the view that a 7-day window to file a formal written report will maximise the quality of information that can be included, without sacrificing the recency necessary to ensure the information is current. If this proposal is supported by industry, we will work with government on making these changes.”

The Consultation Paper also explains a number of clarifications, minor and technical changes, proposed with the goal of better aligning the language of legislation to the other changes proposed in this consultation round.

It also proposes prescribing the format for written reports, aligning with the Minister’s Statement of Expectations by ensuring the ATSB can work efficiently to improve transport safety.

“I encourage all of our stakeholders to go to our website and check out the Consultation Paper and Exposure Draft for these proposed changes,” Mr Mitchell concluded.

“You can then take part in our consultation survey and give us the valuable feedback we need to finalise these changes.”

Review the Consultation Paper and other documents here.

Last update 28 January 2022

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