Is your rescue team ready for confined space entry

Is Your Rescue Team Ready For Confined Space Entry?

by Robert Van Hoof

OSHA requires that an employer establish a satisfactory permit program (OSHA Standard 1920.146) and conduct an analysis of confined space hazards. Once you have established your written procedures, you should evaluate your worst case scenarios that would require a rescue team.

Experience indicates that circumstances will arise where entrants will need to be rescued from permit spaces. Unforeseen medical emergencies can occur to the entrant, or the confined space atmosphere if the ventilation system fails. Merely posting the 911 emergency phone number to obtain these services at the time of a permit space emergency does not comply with the standard.

It is therefore important for employers to select rescue services or teams that are capable of performing a rescue efficiently. When we look at rescue teams or services we need to evaluate
their capabilities and performance during a practice rescue.

The standard requires an annual practice rescue, unless a real event required a team to conduct a rescue.


Evaluation Considerations

Response Time – The rescue team will need to receive notification, arrive at the scene, and set up and be ready for entry.

  • Entry into an IDLH atmosphere (Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health) – This type of entry would require the team to be standing by at the confined space entry point.

  • Entry into spaces with limited hazards – Confined spaces that have dangers to entrants such as mechanical hazards that would cause injuries (e.g., broken bones, abrasions) a response time of 10 or 15 minutes might be adequate.

Travel Time - Evaluate the travel time that the team will need to arrive at your location.

Availability of the Rescue Service – This is a key component to consider. If you are using a rescue service that may get called into another emergency you will need immediate notification so that you can abort the entry.

Respirators - Confined spaces atmospheric hazards may require respirators or SCBA in order to accomplish rescue entry, patient packaging and retrieval. Additional cylinders may be needed if the rescue cannot be accomplished within a short period of time.

Rope Work - Consider the use of rescue using ropes for spaces with a vertical entry over 5 feet in depth.

Training - All members of the team must be trained as permit space entrants, at a minimum, including training in:

  • Potential hazards of all permit spaces

  • Recognize the signs, symptoms, and consequences of exposure to hazardous atmospheres

  • Use of PPE such as SCBA or fall arrest equipment

  • Use any rescue equipment, such as ropes and backboards

  • First aid and CPR

Performance Evaluation

Rescue services are required by the OSHA standard to practice rescues at least once every 12 months, provided that the team or service has not successfully performed a permit space rescue within that time. Proficient rescue personnel should evaluate your team’s ability to:

  • Perform their functions safely and efficiently

  • Test the atmosphere and determine if it is IDLH

  • Identify information pertinent to the rescue from entry permits, hot work permits, and SDSs

  • Properly package and retrieve victims from a permit space that has a limited size opening (less than 24 inches in diameter)

  • Perform an elevated (high angle) rescue (if needed)

With these considerations complete and a satisfactory practice rescue your company is ready to enter a confined space. We can help with confined space entry training and meeting your requirements for hazard identification, and confined space permit writing and plans. has the necessary training available to meet the changing requirements. 

We recommend that a comprehensive approach be utilized that includes this training be used as an initial or refresher training course at least once a year.  Additionally, the entry team must conduct a practical exercise of rescue procedures after they have completed any specialized training such as O2/LEL meter operation, specialized respirator fitting and use, as well as any other organizational requirements such as lockout/tagout procedures.

If you would like to preview this course for your organization’s use give us a call at 1-800-339-0642.


Robert Van Hoof is the CEO of Strategic Vision, Inc. and its subsidiaries and He has more than 30 years of experience in the development of blended and technology-based training programs for multiple U.S. government departments and Fortune 500 companies, which include U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of the Interior, United Technologies, Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne and Duke Energy.



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