A person wearing safety apparel holding fall protection lanyards.

When Do You Need Confined Space Retrieval Equipment?

Most emergency and construction workers, at one point or another, have had to perform operations in confined spaces such as manholes, tunnels, construction holes, and other spaces that restrict movement. 

These confined spaces vary from one another and typically provide unique challenges and hazards that may require specialized equipment, permission, and training to guarantee the safety of workers. The question then becomes, “When do you need confined space retrieval equipment?”

Emergency extractions from confined spaces typically require the use of specialized confined space retrieval equipment. These operations are delicate and dangerous and should only be performed using the right equipment and by trained personnel.







Confined Space and Equipment – A Quick Overview


A loose definition of a confined space is any enclosed space not specifically designed for people to pass through or work in for an extended period. However, this hole must be big enough for one person to pass through or perform specific tasks.


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a confined space is an area that satisfies three (3) specific conditions at all times.


The conditions are:


  • The area has limited options for access and exit
  • The space is not designed to support continuous human occupancy
  • The area is large enough for only one person to enter and perform specialized tasks


Confined Space Retrieval Equipment


Entering any kind of confined space involves varying degrees of risk and hazards. In many cases, you need specialized equipment to successfully enter and exit a confined space to perform specific tasks or to perform emergency rescues. Confined space retrieval equipment are specialized tools and mechanisms used to rescue anyone stuck in a confined space.


Top Reasons for Confined Space Retrieval Equipment


Below are the two top reasons you may require confined space retrieval equipment:


Emergency Response


You typically require confined space retrieval equipment in the case of an emergency or accident within a confined space. To make sure you can rescue your workers or anyone trapped in a confined space in case of an accident, you must have confined space retrieval equipment on standby.


Multiple Casualties


For situations when you need to rescue multiple people at the same time, confined space retrieval equipment is your best bet for ensuring the safety of your rescue team and the victims.


Types of Confined Spaces


According to the definition provided by OSHA, confined spaces are divided into permit-required confined spaces and non-permit-required confined spaces.


Permit Required Confined Space (PRCS)


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a permit required confined space, also known as permit space, is a confined space with one or more of the following features:


  • The space contains a hazardous atmosphere or has the potential to contain one.
  • The space contains material that has the potential to engulf anyone or anything entering it.
  • The space has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and reduce into a smaller area with the potential to trap or asphyxiate anyone entering.
  • The space holds any recognized safety or health hazard, including unguarded machinery, heat stress, and exposed live wires.


Examples of PRCS include storage tanks, certain tunnels, and pits.


Non-Permit Required Confined Space (NPRCS)


A non-permit-required confined space (NPRCS) is not as dangerous as a permit-required confined space and typically does not contain a hazardous atmosphere, converging walls, or hold any recognized safety or health hazards. Examples include crawl spaces and attics.

Trench Safety Equipment
PRS: Personnel Retrieval System

At Sunbelt Rentals, this personnel retrieval system allows the worker to be tied off and safety connected when working underground or in difficult to access areas. Davit arms allow a worker to be suspended or anchored while working below surface. Click to learn more.

prs-personnel-retrieval-system-blog-0730300 - 1


Potential Hazards


Identifying the kinds of hazards that a confined space may present is critical to ensuring a safe and effective rescue operation.


Atmospheric Hazards


A confined space poses an atmospheric hazard if it contains a hazardous atmosphere, such as poisonous air, explosive atmosphere, and an atmosphere with insufficient oxygen. It is important to use a confined space retrieval tool with atmosphere detection capabilities when entering this type of space.


Physical Hazards


Physical hazards in confined spaces include dangers such as entrapment, engulfment, the presence of moving parts, and wet or slick surfaces. Use retrieval equipment designed to work in confined spaces with the specific type of physical hazard you might encounter.


Protective Equipment


Anyone going into a confined space for retrieval, or specialized operations must wear protective gear to ensure their safety and the safety of anyone involved.


Below are some of the protective equipment you may require:


Respiratory Protection


If you are entering a confined space with low air quality, then wearing respiratory protection such as breathing apparatuses and masks is very important.


Safety Harnesses and Lanyards


In any emergency rescue operation involving confined spaces, using the right equipment for fall protection is just as important as the operation itself, especially in vertically confined spaces. Safety harnesses and fall protection lanyards are great for ensuring the safety of your rescue worker and aiding the rescue process.


Gas Detection and Monitoring Equipment


Confined spaces are notorious for keeping gaseous molecules trapped, and this may lead to some potentially fatal atmospheric conditions. The use of gas detection and monitoring equipment to continuously monitor the atmospheric conditions of a confined space is crucial to the safety and survival of a rescue worker and the victim.


Emergency Services


Emergency situations typically require the service of properly trained rescue workers. Two important factors to consider for the operation of confined space retrieval equipment are:


Authorized Entrants


An authorized entrant is anyone with the proper training and authorization to enter a confined space with known confined space hazards. Only authorized entrants should attempt to perform rescue operations in confined spaces using confined space retrieval equipment.


Proper Training for Authorized Entrants


The proper training for authorized entrants must cover hazard recognition, emergency response procedures, and the proper use of confined space retrieval equipment. Proper training helps to improve the overall safety of confined space operations. Taking a confined space awareness class is a good way to stay prepared for confined space emergency extractions.


Retrieval Equipment


The kind of confined space retrieval equipment required for a particular operation depends largely on the configuration of the space.


Below are two common types of retrieval systems:


Continuous Occupancy/Crawl Space Retrieval Systems


Crawl space retrieval systems are great for spaces where continuous crawling is critical to the rescue or installation operation. They typically include lanyards, hooks, breathing apparatuses, harness lines, and more. 


Vertical Permit and Non-Permit Type Spaces Retrieval Systems


Vertical permit and non-permit confined space retrieval systems are equipment specially designed to help handle the unique challenges presented by vertical confined spaces such as tanks and silos.


Wrapping Up


Whenever the need arises for a worker to enter a confined space to perform any kind of emergency or rescue operation, it is necessary to use specialized retrieval equipment designed specifically for the kind of confined space they are about to enter.


The key to knowing when to use confined space retrieval equipment for emergency situations in confined spaces is to undergo specialized confined space training.


Sunbelt Rentals is a one-stop shop for equipment critical to confined space retrieval operations.



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