Incidents that prevent workers from self-rescue can occur in confined spaces due to ill-conceived attempts to rescue and retrieve others, but planning for a rescue can help prevent tragic results.
Proper rescue and retrieval plans often are not created for confined spaces, as is demonstrated by the over 100 deaths that occur annually inside confined spaces in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics1. In almost all of these incidents, NIOSH investigations reveal that no rescue plans were in place. OSHA requires that you have a defined and documented rescue and retrieval plan specific to your confined space, whether it be for a tunnel, storage tank, manhole, elevator shaft, reaction vessel, ductwork or even wastewater treatment facility, which are just some examples, before any entry or work inside these kinds of spaces can even begin to take place.
But a detailed rescue and retrieval plan is only one critical step of being prepared (it’s one of the four elements we talk about here). The act of rescue and retrieval will also need to be performed by someone who is competent and has completed proper training. They must also understand how to select, wear and use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other tools or equipment that will be needed.