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By: Tabitha Mishra
| Last updated: January 24, 2022

What Does Self-Rescue Mean?

In confined space safety, a self-rescue refers to a worker exiting the space on their own when it is no longer safe to remain in it. This is an alternative to a standard confined space rescue, which involves the assistance of supervisors, emergency responders, and equipment handled from outside the space in question.

A self-rescue can be carried out when a hazard has been identified (such as a change in oxygene levels or the detection of a dangerous substance in the atmosphere) or when the worker begins to feel ill, dizzy, faint, or has symptoms of exposure to an atmospheric hazard.

Safeopedia Explains Self-Rescue

A worker who enters a confined space is largely on their own. While they may remain in contact with a supervisor and other personnel outside the space, there may not be anyone in close proximity to them who can render them immediate assistance in an emergency situation.

Given this, workers who enter a confined space should be trained to perform a self-rescue if needed. This can include:

  • How to read portable gas monitors
  • Identifying site-specific hazards, such as engulfment risks or the symptoms of heat stress
  • Safely disengaging and powering down equipment
  • Moving slowly and deliberately to avoid further risks
  • Locating and safely using exit points

Other Types of Confined Space Rescues

While self-rescues can be an expedient option, it is not always the most appropriate one. Depending on the situation, other types of confined space rescues may need to be performed.

External Rescues

An external rescue is performed without enterting the confined space. Instead, the rescue team uses assistive tools (often involving a harness and rope system) to pull or lift the entrant to safety.

Entry Rescues

This type of rescue requires rescuers to enter the confined space to perform the rescue. This requires careful planning and communication to ensure the rescuers and equipment used are appropriate for the rescue process.

Time-Sensitive Rescues

A time-sensitive rescue is one in which the entrant faces a significantly greater risk if they remain in the space for an extended period of time. This can occur, for instance, when the atmosphere is oxygen dfficient or if dangerous gases are detected.

Non-Time-Sensitive Rescues

Non-time-sensitive rescues are those that do not involve hazards that are immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH).


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