Safe railways for Australia


The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) may conduct investigations for the purpose of establishing whether a breach of the Rail Safety National Law (RSNL) has occurred.

An investigation may be conducted in a range of circumstances which include but are not limited in response to:

  • a notifiable occurrence;
  • an adverse finding from an audit;
  • outcomes identified from an inspection;
  • outcomes identified from an investigation;
  • matters identified trend analysis;
  • findings from a rail transport operator’s investigation report;
  • confidential or other intelligence reports; or
  • a written direction from a responsible Minister for a participating jurisdiction on a rail safety matter relating to that jurisdiction.

ONRSR will investigate in order to determine:

  • causes;
  • whether there has been a breach of legislation;
  • whether action has been taken or needs to be taken to prevent a recurrence of an incident and / or to secure compliance with the law;
  • lessons to be learnt and whether there is a requirement to influence the law and industry guidance; and
  • what response is appropriate to a breach of the law.

To maintain a proportionate response, ONRSR will devote most resources available for investigation to the more serious incidents.

ONRSR will always carry out a site investigation of a reportable work-related death, unless there are other specific reasons for not doing so, in which case those reasons will be recorded.

In selecting which complaints or reports of incidents or injury to investigate, and in deciding the level of resources to be used, ONRSR will take account of the following factors:

  • the severity and scale of potential or actual harm;
  • the seriousness of any potential or actual breach of the law;
  • knowledge of the Rail Transport Operator's (RTO's) past performance in terms of compliance with the law;
  • ONRSR’s enforcement priorities;
  • the likelihood of the investigation leading to successful enforcement action against a RTO or a meaningful improvement in its behaviour; and
  • the wider relevance of the event, including serious public concern.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is responsible for identifying the causes of accidents it investigates in order to improve safety; it does not allocate blame.

Working arrangements agreed between ONRSR and the ATSB reflect both their respective statutory duties and the need to ensure efficient and effective liaison. ONRSR and the ATSB have a Memorandum of Understanding in place.

Related documents

Last updated: 14 August 2020