Skip Navigation

Course 816 - Confined Space Safety in Construction

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier
Confined Space Rescue - Colorado Springs Utilities

Emergency Rescue

It's sad but true, but more than 60% of confined space fatalities occur among would-be rescuers. The reason why: lack of proper training. It's predictable that co-workers will attempt to rescue those who are in trouble in a confined space, and that why it's critical to make sure all confined space rescuers are adequately trained and familiar with the spaces on the worksite.

Watch the short WorkSafeBC video on the right to see what can happen when things go wrong.

Develop a Rescue Plan

Before employees enter a permit space, the employer must have a procedure for removing them when they are unable to evacuate.

  • The procedure must include the process for summoning rescue services and transporting injured entrants to a medical facility.
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS) must be kept at worksites.
  • If an entrant is exposed to a hazardous substance, that written material must be made available to the treating medical facility.

Non-Entry Rescue

Non-entry rescue is required unless the retrieval equipment would increase the overall risk of entry or would not contribute to the rescue of the entrant.

  • The employer must designate an entry rescue service whenever non-entry rescue is not selected.
  • Whenever non-entry rescue is selected, the entry employer must ensure that retrieval systems or methods are used whenever an authorized entrant enters a permit space.
  • The employer must confirm, prior to entry, that emergency assistance would be available in the event that non-entry rescue fails.

Retrieval Systems

Retrieval systems for non-entry rescue operations must meet the following requirements:

  • Each authorized entrant must use a chest or full body harness. The retrieval line must be attached in one of the following locations:
    • at the center of the entrant's back near shoulder level,
    • above the entrant's head, or
    • at another point which the employer can establish presents a profile small enough for the successful removal of the entrant.
  • Wristlets or anklets may be used in lieu of the chest or full body harness if the employer can prove that the use of a chest or full body harness:
    • is infeasible, or
    • creates a greater hazard and using wristlets or anklets is the safest and most effective alternative.
  • The other end of the retrieval line must be attached to a mechanical device or fixed point outside the permit space in such a manner that rescue can begin as soon as the rescuer becomes aware that rescue is necessary.
  • A mechanical device must be available to retrieve personnel from vertical type permit spaces more than 5 feet (1.52 meters) deep.
  • retrieval
  • Only equipment suitable for retrieval will be used. Examples of unsuitable equipment include:
    • retrieval lines that have a reasonable probability of becoming entangled with the retrieval lines used by other authorized entrants, or
    • retrieval lines that will not work due to the internal configuration of the permit space.
  • If an injured entrant is exposed to a substance for which a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or other similar written information is required to be kept at the worksite, that SDS or written information must be made available to the medical facility treating the exposed entrant.

For more information on confined space emergency retrieval systems check out Oregon OSHA's Tech Notes.

Evaluating an Emergency Rescue Service

rescue service

An employer who designates rescue and emergency services must evaluate a prospective rescuer's ability to respond in a timely manner, considering the hazard(s) identified.

What will be considered timely will vary according to the specific hazards involved in each entry:

  • If the confined space involves hazards posing an immediate threat to life or health, rescue providers should be located outside the space ready for entry at a moment's notice.
  • If the hazard involved is not immediately life-threatening, the employer may designate a rescue service capable of responding within a reasonable time commensurate with the nature of the hazard.
  • Since OSHA cannot state in advance whether any specific response time is adequate, employers need to determine what a timely response time is for themselves after review of all of the relevant factors.

The employer must also evaluate a prospective rescue service's ability to function appropriately while rescuing entrants from the particular permit space or types of permit spaces identified.

Selecting a Rescue Team

The employer should select a rescue team or service that:

  • Has the capability to reach the victim(s) within an appropriate time frame for the permit space hazard(s) identified;
  • Is equipped for performing the needed rescue services; and
  • Agrees to notify the employer immediately in the event that the rescue service becomes unavailable.

The employer should inform the selected rescue team or service of the specific hazards they may confront when called on to perform rescue in a permit space on the site.

The employer should provide the selected rescue team or service with access to all permit spaces from which rescue may be necessary so the team can develop appropriate rescue plans and practice rescue operations.

Employee Team Rescue and Services

rescue team

An employer that has designated employees to provide permit space rescue and/or emergency services must take the following measures:

  • Provide all equipment and training at no cost to those employees.
  • Provide each affected employee with the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to conduct permit space rescues safely.

Employee Rescue Team Training

Effective training an employee rescue team is absolutely critical and should include classroom as well as hands-on practice rescue operations. The employer should train each affected employee:

  • so the employee is proficient in the use of PPE and in performing assigned rescue
  • so the employee receives the same training as authorized entrants, attendants, and supervisors;
  • in basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). At least one member of the rescue team or service holding a current certification in basic first aid and CPR must be available.

Rescue Team Practice

rescue practice

To make sure the rescue team can most effectively perform their critical duties, the employer must make sure all affected employees practice making simulated permit space rescues in the same types of confined spaces they will encounter before attempting an actual rescue. Important points to remember include:

  • Simulated rescue operations should include removing dummies, manikins, or actual persons from the actual permit spaces or from representative permit spaces.
  • Practice rescue is not required where the affected employees properly performed a successful rescue operation during the last 12 months in the same permit space the authorized entrant will enter, or in a similar permit space.
  • Representative simulated permit spaces must have the same opening size, configuration, and accessibility as the actual permit spaces for which training is being conducted.
  • Simulated permit rescues must be conducted at least once every 12 months. Training should also occur whenever there is a change in the nature of the hazards, configuration of the permit space, or deemed necessary by the employer.


Here are two good examples of a simulated rescue.

Rescue drill conducted at a well known Barossa Winery in August, 2013 after completing Confined Space, SCBA & Rescue training with MSS Safety.
Click to play video
Rescue training session by Neptune Special Operations Team. The team is comprised of Neptune Office of Emergency Management, Neptune Fire Department, Neptune EMS and Neptune Police.
Click to play video


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Which of the following confined space emergency rescue methods is to be used unless it is infeasible?

2. When non-entry retrieval systems are used, each authorized entrant must _____.

3. During confined space operations, when must a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) be provided to a medical facility?

4. What is the minimum number of members of a confined space rescue team that must be first aid and CPR trained?

5. Simulated permit rescues must be conducted _____.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.