History of the Board

Our country has a long and proud history of carrying out investigations into the causes of disasters and accidents. Investigatory committees have been part of the transport sector since the start of the 20th century: the Maritime Court of the Netherlands was set up in 1909, the Inland Waterways Disaster Committee in 1931, the Civil Aviation Board in 1937 and the Railway Accidents Inquiry Board in 1956. While it’s true to say that these committees gave independent final assessments, in practice the actual investigations were carried out by the various inspectorates of the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management.

There was a major change in this position in the 1990s, when there were increasingly loud calls for independent investigations where the entire investigation would be carried out by an independent investigatory agency. In 1999, this led to the setting up of the Transport Safety Board, which was responsible for all investigations in the transport sector, including road transport and pipelines. This move also made concrete the desire to explicitly exclude from the investigation the issue of apportioning blame, in order that lessons be learned from said investigation. The former Civil Aviation Board still had disciplinary powers until as late as 1992, with this still being the case for the Maritime Court of the Netherlands.

Since that time, the trend of pooling strengths has continued and has led to motions in the Dutch House of Representatives to extend the concept of independent investigation to all sectors. After all, it was asked, why does the transport sector have a permanent investigatory board to carry out independent investigations, yet other sectors have to make do with an ‘ad hoc’ committee that has to be set up after each major accident? After the firework disaster in Enschede and the café fire in Volendam, the government took these motions on board. A start was then made to prepare a bill for a Kingdom Act to set up the Dutch Safety Board that can launch investigations into incidents (disasters, accidents and near-accidents) in the various transport sectors and in the fields of defence, industry and trade, health care, nature and environment, and crisis management and relief.

The Dutch Safety Board was founded at 1st February 2005.