Sharing safety information and mandatory reporting

We receive mandatory notifications about incidents and accidents from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

This information helps us to:

  • monitor trends in aviation safety and take safety action where needed
  • decide whether we need to initiate our own, independent regulatory inquiries.

International mandatory reporting requirements

Our practice is consistent with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements for the mandatory reporting of certain occurrences. These requirements can be found in Annex 19, Safety Management.

The internationally agreed view is that this type of information is important for organisations responsible for ensuring aviation safety, not just for the accident investigator.

In Australia, the ATSB receives and stores this information and provides regular reporting to us.

Types of information shared

The ATSB tells us about aviation accidents and serious incidents as soon as they are informed. The information they provide may contain details such as:

  • operator names
  • registration numbers
  • times
  • dates
  • locations
  • a description of the event.

Wherever possible, the ATSB aims to avoid identifying individuals.

Each day, the ATSB gives us a redacted report of all occurrences entered into the ATSB database. The report contains standard information about occurrences notified to the ATSB, including aircraft registration, so that we have enough detail to gather our own information about the occurrence. It doesn't contain a detailed narrative.

Each week, the ATSB also provides us with summaries of information entered into their database during the week. The aggregate summary does not include identifying information such as aircraft registration.

Limits on how we can use the information

Consistent with our regulatory philosophy, the information helps us determine whether we need to start our own inquiries.

We don't rely solely on these reports unless we need to take action in the interests of safety and there is no alternative source of information. In taking any action, we afford natural justice to the people or organisations that are affected.

We won't normally recommend the initiation of criminal proceedings in matters that come to our attention only because they have been reported under the ATSB's mandatory reporting scheme. Where appropriate preventive, remedial or corrective action has not been taken, we may need to take administrative action in the interests of safety.

Even if the information reported involves a serious safety concern requiring urgent attention, we're unlikely to rely solely on it. We generally gather all available evidence to determine whether regulatory action is required. In all cases, we consider the use of this information on the basis of the principles set out in our regulatory philosophy.

Accessing information about an operator's safety management system

We can use the information we receive from the ATSB to find out more about an operator's safety management system (SMS). This is in accordance with Annex 13, Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, and recent amendments to Annex 19.

Under current legislation, we can also ask for information from, or about, an operator's SMS to help ensure that:

  • an operator is complying with its SMS
  • appropriate safety related actions are being taken and safety risks are being mitigated
  • SMSs are not being abused or manipulated for improper purposes.

Deciding if using information is in the interests of safety

There are a number of ways we decide to use the information reported to us if it's in the interests of safety. This includes considering whether failing to take action could lead to an unacceptable risk to air safety. The seriousness or urgency of the situation may make it unreasonable not to rely on the information.

Storing and access to information

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

All accidents and incidents reported are provided to the ATSB's notifications team. The notifications team enters them in an electronic database that is a part of the ATSB's Safety Investigation Information Management System (SIIMS). The ATSB does not keep paper files of of notifications.

SIIMS is a secure database. Only people in the ATSB who need to access it are authorised to do so. This include the ATSB's notifications, investigation and research staff who only access the information for their safety functions. A limited number of corporate staff also have access so they can perform service related functions such as Legal and IT. All staff are trained in confidentiality requirements applying to the information.

CASA

We receive de-identified information from the ATSB. We keep this information in an electronic database so that we can analyse trends and identify actual or potential safety risks.

Making information available to the public

The ATSB publishes a de-identified summary on its website of each accident and incident reported. Details like the names of individuals and operators are removed.

When the ATSB receives requests under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) that includes notification material, it talks with the providers of the information before deciding if the information should be released.

Under the FOI Act, consideration is given to the private or confidential nature of the information involved. Consideration is also given to whether releasing information could have a substantial adverse effect on the ATSB's operations.

If another agency receives information from the ATSB and that agency receives an FOI request for that material, the other agency should consult with the ATSB. In many cases, the request will be transferred to the ATSB for assessment.

Accidents and incidents are reported for the purpose of maintaining and improving aviation safety. The information is only disclosed and used by the ATSB and CASA for this purpose. Accident and incident notifications are not voluntarily disclosed by either organisation for other purposes, such as civil litigation.

In the absence of the kind of legislative protections governing certain information obtained and held by the ATSB, information that CASA holds would be disclosed publicly only in accordance with the requirements, and subject to the limitations, of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Maintaining these arrangements

We will continue to monitor the development and implementation of ICAO standards and recommended practices relating to information sharing. We will consult appropriately before making any significant changes to existing arrangements.

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