Confined spaces are spaces that are not intended for continuous human occupation. While they may be big enough for workers to enter, they offer limited or restricted means of access and egress. This means that if something goes wrong in a confined space and a confined space rescue is needed, several essential considerations must be made to guarantee a safe and successful rescue.
Carrying out an appropriate risk assessment before commencing work and having an appropriate rescue plan in place before beginning work is critical, since approximately  60% of confined space deaths were of attempted rescuers. The three types of confined space rescue are explored in more depth below.
This is when a person can escape a confined space without requiring assistance from anybody else. In many cases, a self-rescue is an aborted attempt at entering the confined space when the individual recognizes that the situation is riskier than they first thought. In self-rescue, the individual can free themselves without outside assistance, so this is the lowest-risk rescue situation and generally, nobody is injured during this type of rescue.
This is when a trapped person can be rescued from a confined space without anyone else needing to enter the space. Generally, non-entry rescues are conducted by a professional and fully trained rescue team, who provide the trapped individual with advice on safely exiting the space.
In some situations, the rescue team can create a new point of egress from the confined space or even hoist the trapped individual out by rope or ladder if they are uninjured but simply unable to reach a handhold.
This is the most dangerous type of rescue from a confined space, as it requires someone else to enter the confined space to free the trapped individual. Because confined spaces are such intrinsically dangerous places, confined space entry rescues should only ever be attempted by professional and fully trained rescue teams.
Entry rescues are usually conducted when the trapped individual is injured or unconscious, or if the only way to escape is via a route that the trapped individual cannot navigate by themselves—for example, if the trapped individual cannot swim, but the only safe egress is through water in which they would be out of their depth.
Confined Space Rescue Summary
The best way to avoid a situation where a rescue from a confined space is required is to ensure that anywhere that people are required to enter confined spaces must first be properly risk assessed and have a confined space training and rescue plan program in place.
If a rescue is needed after someone has entered a confined space, the safest rescue is for the person to release themselves—preferably before they have gone too far and can still easily abort the attempted intrusion.
In situations where someone has fully committed to entering the confined space and requires rescuing, non-entry rescue should always be attempted before other people enter the space to minimize the likelihood of further entrapment or injury.