While police and coronial investigations and inquests are different to safety investigations, they share a common objective: to improve safety and prevent future deaths.
The following information outlines how OTSI investigates under the Passenger Transport Act 1990 and its legal limitations.
For information on how OTSI conducts investigations under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and its Collaboration Agreement with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), visit the ATSB website.
The Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI) is the independent ‘no-blame’ transport safety investigator for NSW. It is led by the Chief Investigator who is appointed by the Governor of NSW on the recommendation of the Minister for Transport.
OTSI works to improve transport safety through undertaking investigations, data analysis, research, and engaging with stakeholders to share safety lessons and insights.
Using the ‘no-blame’ approach to investigations, OTSI does not assign fault or determine liability. Rather, OTSI aims to identify and understand the causes and contributing factors to incidents and report on those investigations in order to improve transport safety management and prevent further incidents.
The Chief Investigator is not subject to the direction and control of the Minister in the exercise of the Chief Investigator’s investigative and reporting functions.
As an independent safety investigator, OTSI brings a balanced approach to the investigation process, explaining what happened, and why, in a fair, unbiased, and constructive way.
OTSI conducts investigations into rail, bus and ferry passenger transport, and rail freight accidents and incidents under the following legislation:
Each transport mode has a similar investigation process at accident sites. The different situational factors taken into consideration include the weather, environment, location, type of vehicle/vessel, the incident itself, and people involved.
After emergency services have declared an accident site safe, and the site is secure and controlled, OTSI will access the site to collect evidence.
As with any location which is part of an investigation, it is vital that evidence at a transport accident site is preserved.
OTSI is authorised under Part 4C and Schedule 6 of the PTA to enter any railway premises or other premises reasonably suspected to be used for a public passenger service to exercise various investigation powers including to inspect maintenance facilities and equipment, take samples and photographs, search for evidence, inspect relevant documents, and require persons at the premises to answer questions or provide information.
On site, OTSI Transport Safety Investigators will record evidence and communicate regularly with all parties to protect and minimise damage to evidence. Other agencies are encouraged to work cooperatively with our investigators so that each agency may record their own evidence.
OTSI can also require any person, including an individual, to answer questions in relation to a transport safety investigation, and/or produce any documents or other things required for the purposes of a transport safety investigation. OTSI can also require any person, including an individual, to answer questions
Information obtained by OTSI or any of its transport safety investigators during a transport safety investigation, including information obtained in response to a notice requiring the production of information or documents, is generally “restricted information” under the PTA. Any restricted information is subject to certain protections referred to below.
Securing a site
OTSI can, for the purpose of protecting evidence that might be relevant for a transport safety investigation or ensuring safety, secure the perimeter of any site . It is an offence for a person to enter or remain at any such site without permission of a transport safety investigator.
OTSI may inspect any vehicle reasonably suspected of being used for the purpose of a public passenger service and may inspect and test any equipment in the vehicle.
Requests for information held by OTSI
Under Schedule 6 of the PTA, OTSI must make documents or things obtained in relation to a transport safety investigation available to a “relevant body” on their written request for the purposes of an investigation under a law of the Commonwealth or another State or Territory a coronial inquest or inquiry. A relevant body includes a NSW, Commonwealth or other State or Territory government agency or coroner.
However, OTSI is not required to comply with any such request:
to the extent that the document or thing is or contains restricted information or an on-board recording; or
if the Chief Investigator is of the opinion that making the document or thing available would be likely to interfere with any transport safety investigation to which the document or thing relates.
Restricted information means any of the following—
all statements (whether oral or in writing) obtained from persons by the Chief Investigator or a transport safety investigator in the course of a transport safety investigation (including any record of such a statement),
all information recorded by the Chief Investigator or a transport safety investigator in the course of a transport safety investigation,
all communications with a person involved in the operation of rolling stock, a ferry, a bus or other vehicle that is or was the subject of a transport safety investigation,
medical or private information regarding persons (including deceased persons) involved in a matter that is being investigated,
information in relation to rolling stock, a ferry, a bus or other vehicle that is or was the subject of a transport safety investigation, recorded for the purposes of monitoring or directing the progress of the vehicle from one place to another or information recorded in relation to the operation of the vehicle,
records of the analysis of information or material acquired in the course of a transport safety investigation (including opinions expressed by a person in that analysis),
information that is contained in a document produced on entry to premises under Schedule 6 of the PTA,
information contained in a report made under a voluntary reporting scheme,
information obtained or generated by the Chief Investigator in the course of considering a report made under a voluntary reporting scheme,
records of the analysis of information contained in a report made under a voluntary reporting scheme (including opinions expressed by a person in that analysis).
On-board recording means a recording—
that consists of (or consists mainly of) sounds or images, or sounds and images, of persons in the control area of rolling stock, a bus or a ferry, and
that was made in order to comply with a law of NSW, and
any part of which was made at the time of the occurrence of an accident or incident that involved the rolling stock, bus or ferry.
Information from investigations
Evidence and information collected or generated during an OTSI investigation will usually fall within the scope of “restricted information” referred to above and therefore be subject to restrictions on disclosure.
The Chief Investigator must return all documents and things produced for the purpose of a transport safety investigation under the PTA when it is no longer needed. If requested, OTSI will notify coronial and police officers when original documents have been returned to their owner (see above).
Reports on transport safety investigations
OTSI must provide the Minister with a written report on any transport safety investigation, including any discontinued investigation.
OTSI may provide a copy of the draft report, or proposed recommendations in a report, to the Minister or any other person if the Chief Investigator thinks that it is desirable or necessary to do so for the purposes of transport safety. OTSI may include any submissions made in response to a draft report or draft recommendations, safety action statements or safety recommendations in its report to the Minister.
OTSI and coronial inquests
In the event of a coronial inquest, OTSI investigators can brief the Coroner and coronial/police officers assisting the Coroner and counsel assisting the Coroner.