Confined spaces are naturally hazardous and not suitable for continuous occupancy, but they are necessary in some factories and other such workspaces. If you have a process vessel, chemical tank, boiler, tunnel, sewer, or other similar spaces in your facility, you may be legally required to have access to a confined space rescue team.

How do you know if you are required to have one or not? The simplest way is to ask yourself this question:

“If the person inside the space were to become unconscious, could I remove them safely without entering the space?”

If you answered no to that question, you’re required to have a Confined Space Rescue Team either on-site or on standby.

What is a Confined Space Rescue Team?

A Confined Space Rescue Team is a team of trained personnel that provides rescue services and rescue equipment during a planned entry into a permit required confined space such. They can provide emergency retrieval systems, supplied air units, personal protection equipment, and medical trauma kits for a potential rescue in IDHL atmospheres. The team also monitors all activities inside and outside the confined space to ensure safe entry.

Many facilities find it more cost-effective to outsource these services as opposed to having an in-house team on the rare occasion an employee may need to enter a permit required confined space.

Outsourced Confined Space Rescue Services

fall protection harness

Calling emergency responders to provide rescue services can be a suitable way of providing for rescues in a permit-required confined space. Pre-planning will ensure that the emergency service is capable, available and prepared!

A Confined Space Rescue Team must be on-site at the facility for Permit Required Confined Spaces that have a hazardous IDHL atmosphere that can’t be removed with forced air ventilation.

A Confined Space Rescue Team must be at the space or on standby for Permit Required Confined Spaces that have the potential for entrapment or engulfment, or spaces where you’d be unable to safely remove an entrant should they become unconscious. Standby rescue teams must be close enough to your facility to respond in a timely manner. This is generally understood to be less than a 5 minute response time or standing by at the space for more difficult rescue scenarios.

Prior to the start of the rescue work operation, employers must evaluate prospective emergency responders and select one that has:

  • Adequate equipment for rescues, such as: atmospheric monitors, fall protection, extraction equipment, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for the particular permit-required confined spaces.
  • The ability to respond and conduct a rescue in a timely manner based on the site conditions and is capable of conducting a rescue if faced with potential hazards specific to the space. Such hazards may include:
    • Atmospheric hazards (e.g., flammable vapors, low oxygen)
    • Electrocution (e.g., unprotected, energized wires)
    • Flooding or engulfment potential
    • Poor lighting
    • Fall hazards
    • Chemical hazards
  • Agreed to notify the employer in the event that the rescue team becomes unavailable.

Employers must also:

  • Inform the emergency responders of potential hazards when they are called to perform a rescue at the worksite; and
  • Provide emergency responders with access to all permit-required confined spaces. Such access may include:
    • Information on access routes, gates or landmarks
    • A project site plan if necessary
    • GPS coordinates if in a remote location

Additionally, employers should ensure that:

  • The most efficient means to contact emergency responders is available;
  • Any changes to the project site conditions are communicated to the rescue service; and
  • Emergency responders are willing to visit the site and conduct a joint training exercise with the employer.

In-House Confined Space Rescue Team

confined space course

If you have the budget and you want prompt response in case of an incident, then it makes sense to invest in training an in-house team. It’s even more important to have your own rescue team if your confined space has a hazardous IDLH atmosphere that forced air ventilation cannot remove.

There is peace of mind in having your own rescue team that knows exactly how to respond to accidents in spaces that can potentially engulf or entrap, or in spaces where it can be difficult to safely remove an unconscious person. Proper training will enable your standby rescue teams to respond to incidents in a timely manner, too—ideally in less than five minutes. They will also be trained on how to react should the rescue mission become more challenging.

Let us help!

SCM offers both Confined Space Rescue Services and Confined Space Rescue Training if you are located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact us at if you have any questions or would like a quote!

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