What is Confined Space Entry Rescue?

Confined space entry rescue is a technical rescue operation performed within an area having limited accessibility and egress.

This may include storage tanks, silos, underground municipal infrastructure and process vessels in the refining, chemical and petrochemical industries.

In the event of an emergency, time is of the essence as most individuals have approximately 4 minutes without breathable air before they suffocate. In addition, two-thirds of all of deaths occurring in confined spaces are attributed to persons attempting to rescue someone else.1 This makes proper planning and execution by the rescue team one of the most important factors.

What is a confined space?

The confined space may vary by industry but generally, it is referred to as a confined space when:

  • There is restricted entry or exit capabilities
  • A potential for the atmosphere to become hazardous
  • There is a high probability that a serious hazard is present due to work within the space
  • Long-term human occupancy was not part of design

Why rescues in confined spaces have unique challenges

Rescues in confined spaces are very challenging for a number of reasons including:

  • Space is limited restricting movement
  • Areas are usually dark or have little light
  • Many spaces harbor hazardous gases, liquids or free-flowing granular solids (e.g. grains)
  • Potential risk of hitting internal equipment leading to injury

Types of confined space entry rescue

Confined space entry rescue can be split out into three categories including:

  1. Self-rescue – individual performing the work in the confined space or someone dedicated to monitoring his / her activities notices a hazard and quickly disengages from the task and exits the confined space.
  2. Non-entry rescue – is a confined space entry extraction without the need for another individual to enter the confined space. This procedure is done with the use of safety lines, ropes, pulleys, poles and other equipment.
  3. Entry rescue – this involves the use of a rescuer to enter the confined space and save an incapacitated individual. These rescues are the most dangerous and planning and have backup rescue workers available and on standby is important in case the initial lead rescuer runs into difficulty.

Equipment used in space entry rescue

There is specific equipment used when rescuing individuals from confined spaces, this includes:

  • Protective equipment including clothing/suits, masks, breathing apparatus, head gear with lighting
  • Full-body harness
  • Safety lines
  • Winches (including mechanical winch) and tripod
  • Equipment and methods for ventilation
  • Wristlets
  • Environmental monitoring equipment

Most technicians performing work in confined spaces are using external breathing tanks and are wearing protective equipment.

If you are planning a project where you believe confined space entry rescue services may be requirement, or your team members may require training, please don’t hesitate to contact us at jhull@protocolrescue.com. For ongoing site safety tips related to oil and gas facilities specifically, please feel free to sign up for our newsletter or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

1. “Is It Safe to Enter a Confined Space?” (PDF). Cal-OSHA. 1998. Retrieved September 1, 2006.