With effect 20 January 2013, a national rail safety regulatory system was introduced to improve safety management and regulatory consistency across Australia. To facilitate this in NSW the Rail Safety Act 2008 was repealed and replaced by the Rail Safety (Adoption of National Law) Act 2012. In support of this reform the role of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was expanded to include rail safety investigations.
OTSI investigates safety occurrences affecting the safe operation of freight or passenger trains, or the railway infrastructure, within NSW. The Chief Investigator may initiate an OTSI investigation as provided for by the NSW Passenger Transport Act 1990 or at the direction of the NSW Minister for Transport and Roads. Alternatively, OTSI may complete such investigations on behalf of the ATSB in accordance with the Collaboration Agreement between the two agencies. The Chief Investigator Transport Safety, Victoria, is also party to this agreement. These investigations are conducted in accordance with the Commonwealth's Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.
Rail safety investigations may be initiated as the result of a safety occurrence or the identification of an adverse safety trend. The purpose is to identify why accidents or safety incidents occur and to make recommendations to prevent recurrence. The nature of the investigations is different to those carried out by safety regulators and enforcement agencies in that the primary purpose is to identify the contributory factors that lead to a safety occurrence, rather than apportion blame. If it is identified that a safety occurrence was the result of a malicious act, then the matter may be referred to the relevant authority or Police.
Reports on OTSI investigations initiated by the Chief Investigator are presented to the NSW Minister for Transport and Roads for tabling in both houses of the NSW Parliament. These reports are also published on OTSI's website. Reports on investigations undertaken by OTSI on behalf of the ATSB are provided to the Chief Commissioner for release and publication on the ATSB's and OTSI's websites.