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Confined Space Series: When Do I Need a Standby Rescue Team?

Confined Space Rescue Teams are becoming more and more common in the market, now that people are realising that purely relying on emergency services isn’t adequate for a suitable ‘rescue plan'.

rescue team looking into confined space
rescue team

As the Confined Space 1997 Regulations states: (1) No person at work shall enter or carry out work in a confined space unless there have been prepared in respect of that confined space suitable and sufficient arrangements for the rescue of persons in the event of an emergency, whether or not arising out of a specified risk; (2) The arrangements referred to in that paragraph shall not be suitable and sufficient unless; a) they reduce, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risks to the health and safety of any person required to put the arrangements for rescue into operation; and b) they require, where the need for resuscitation of any person is a likely consequence of a relevant specified risk, the provision and maintenance of such equipment as is necessary to enable resuscitation procedures to be carried out (3) Whenever there arise any circumstances to which the arrangements referred to in paragraph (1) above relate, those arrangements, or the relevant part or parts of those arrangements, shall immediately be put into operation This doesn’t mean that a standby rescue team is required for every entry, but that simply relying on the emergency services isn’t adequate "109. However, reliance on the emergency services alone will not be sufficient to comply with these regulations. Employers must put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work commences." (ACOP Safe Work in Confined Spaces L101).

The ‘arrangements’ put in place should be ‘suitable and sufficient’, so therefore appropriate for the risk, nature and complexity of the confined space being entered. Below we have given some examples of different levels of entries:

  1. Low Risk Confined Spaces with easy access/egress - Gas detection is used and in the event that there is an alarm, entrants don the escape breathing apparatus and safely escape.

  2. A vertical entry - where the entrant is attached to a mechanical lifting device and in the event of an emergency can be safely extracted without any risk of entanglement. In an emergency, if the entrant is incapacitated for whatever reason, they can be safely extracted without the need of committing any additional personnel to assist them.

  3. Entry where there is a reasonable foreseeable risk - in the event of an emergency, if any entrant may become disabled and/or unable to escape from the confined space without additional assistance. To note, the ‘reasonable foreseeable risk’ may not just be a hazardous area, but from a slip/trip/fall or entanglement.

At point 3 a standby rescue team would usually be employed as a control measure for a ‘suitable and sufficient’ arrangement. A Safe System of Work must always include a rescue plan with adequate arrangements for rescue (see our post on Safe Systems of Work).

For more information about rescue teams and when they are needed, feel free to contact one of our team on 0330 828 0887 or


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