What We Do

OTSI's core business is to conduct transport safety investigations into, bus and ferry and rail safety occurrences at the instigation of OTSI's Chief Investigator. The NSW Minister for Transport can also direct OTSI to investigate an occurrence. In addition to its investigation function, OTSI also administers a Confidential Safety Information Reporting Scheme (CSIRS) for transport employees and conducts trend analysis of safety occurrences of the bus, ferry and rail transport industries.

OTSI’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025 (PDF) outlines our priorities to improve transport safety outcomes in NSW. The plan summarises how we will deliver this through five pillars:

  • Organisational direction, people and culture.
  • The right people with the right skills in the right roles.
  • Investigation and safety strategy enhanced by data and insights.
  • Financial, organisational effectiveness, sustainability.
  • Stronger industry reputation and stakeholder relationships.

The Strategic Plan outlines specific actions for each of the five pillars.

OTSI applies contemporary risk management techniques in analysis of occurrences. Rarely do accidents have the same context and circumstances, therefore different analytical tools should be applied that consider and take into account these important aspects. Additionally, OTSI engages with industry, directly interested parties and subject matter experts in formulating our reports. These contributions are critical to improving transport safety.

The scope of OTSI's interest within these transport industries is prescribed by the Transport Administration Act 1988 and the Passenger Transport Act 1990. These Acts allow OTSI to investigate any matter affecting the operation of a bus, ferry or train that is providing a public passenger service. Additionally, the safe operation of freight rail services, and associated rail infrastructure.  

Rail safety investigations may be conducted on behalf of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), under a Collaboration Arrangement. This agreement is a tri-partite agreement between the ATSB (Commonwealth), The Chief Investigator Transport Safety (Victoria) and OTSI (NSW) and has been in place since 2013.  Investigations undertaken on behalf of the ATSB are conducted in accordance with the Commonwealth's Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.

The purpose of OTSI's investigations is to identify the contributory factors to an accident or incident and make recommendations to prevent their recurrence. To enable open and penalty-free reporting of information, investigations are conducted within the context of a 'no-blame' framework. OTSI does not apportion blame or liability. This practice is commonplace worldwide in similar investigative bodies. 

Upon notification, OTSI may deploy to determine if a safety occurrence will be investigated and what type of investigation is warranted. The decision is influenced by:

•    a direction to investigate by the NSW Minister for Transport
•    any fatalities or injuries and level of infrastructure damage
•    the potential safety value that may be gained by conducting an investigation 
•    the availability of OTSI resources to perform the investigation
•    the risks to the broader industry 
•    the public profile of the occurrence

In the event that a safety occurrence was caused by a deliberate and malicious act, the matter may be handed over to the relevant authority or Police .

For all bus, ferry and rail investigations initiated by OTSI, the final investigation report is tabled by the NSW Minister for Transport in both houses of the NSW Parliament and then subsequently published on OTSI’s website. Reports on rail investigations undertaken on the ATSB's behalf are published on the ATSB and OTSI websites.