Safety investigation authority

The safety investigation authority of the Federal Government (Sicherheitsuntersuchungsstelle des Bundes, abbr. SUB) is an office of the Federal Ministry and makes a significant contribution to improving road safety. Accidents and incidents must be investigated independently and thoroughly to learn from mistakes and to avoid repetitions. This idea is based on international standards of accident analysis and draws upon concepts and strategies of the road safety policy of the European Union and Community obligations.

The SUB encompasses the areas of rail, shipping, cableways and civil aviation. Through focal points across transport sectors in accident analysis, the joint reporting office and a central 24-hour emergency service, synergy and saving effects can be achieved.

In accordance with the requirements of European Union law and the Austrian legal situation, the SUB is independent in functional and organisational terms from all authorities and parties, public and private bodies whose interests could conflict with the tasks of the SUB.

The central tasks of the SUB include investigating accidents and incidents, establishing the possible causes and developing safety recommendations as proposals for improving road safety. Investigations are explicitly not for the purpose of clarifying questions of blame or liability, and investigation reports are not allowed to establish any findings. Road safety work not only helps to prevent human suffering, it is also economically viable for avoiding waste of resources.

Example: aviation

Aircraft accidents and serious incidents in Austria must be reported immediately to the search and rescue centre of Austro Control GmbH. In addition to the pilots, this reporting obligation affects aircraft operators, airport operators, the police, flight schools, air traffic control and so forth, among others. The search and rescue centre also forwards this report to the SUB immediately. This then collects additional information or decides on the immediate initiation of an investigation according to the legal provisions.

As soon as the decision to carry out an investigation has been taken, an SUB team, usually consisting of two persons, goes to the accident site. During the journey, the first enquiries are already carried out. This can include, for example, weather information, radiotelephony or radar data. If possible, the accident site remains unchanged until the aircraft accident investigation authority arrives, and is secured by the executive authority.

Regardless of where the accident has occurred, the SUB employees always go directly to the scene of the accident. Exceptions to this have so far only been made in bodies of water and on avalanche slopes. The first steps at the accident site are listing evidence, photo documentation, measuring the traces, investigating the wreck together with its cargo and questioning witnesses or parties involved. Depending on the circumstances, whole aircraft or parts thereof are secured, rescued for further investigations and transported to an investigation hanger of the SUB, where a detailed technical investigation can be carried out.

In the case of accidents of aircraft that are not registered and manufactured in Austria, the respective states are invited to send observers and persons familiar with the aircraft or the operation of the airline to the investigation. These people can also already participate in these first investigation activities. This invitation is usually accepted in the case of aircraft accidents in the commercial sector.

Technical investigation

At an accident site, the necessary special tools and the corresponding documentation are not generally available. The environmental conditions also often prevent a comprehensive investigation at the scene of the accident. Components intended for a detailed technical investigation are documented, cleaned and investigated according to the manufacturer’s instructions in the investigation hanger of the SUB. Alongside the technical investigations, other enquiries are, of course, carried out. In a public report, the findings, the interpretation thereof and the probable causes of the accident are recorded. An essential part of the final report are the safety recommendations. These are suggestions for improvement that should be implemented by the bodies addressed. These can be, for example, authorities, manufacturers or air carriers.

Investigation reports in German

Occurrence Reporting in Civil Aviation

In the event of an accident or a serious incident in civil aviation in the territory of Austria, notification of the occurrence to the Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority in accordance with Article 9 (1) of Regulation (EU) No. 996/2010 (→ EUR-Lex) shall be submitted to Austro Control GmbH, Austrian Center for Accident and Incident reporting: