Rescue Team Requirements

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This post is in response to what seems to be a lot of confusion as to the requirements for a standby rescue team.  The following are the answers to a few questions and dilemmas we have run into.

Q: When do I need a rescue team on standby?

A: A rescue team is appropriate in several circumstances:

  1. OSHA’s Confined Space Standard (1910.146(d)(9)) requires employers to include in their Permit Required Confined Space Entry Procedures a procedure “…for summoning rescue and emergency services, for rescuing entrants from permit spaces, for providing necessary emergency services to rescued employees, and for preventing unauthorized personnel from attempting rescue.” 1910.146(k) also goes on to designate the requirements for those rescue services.
  2. OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations & Emergency Response Standard (1910.120(q)(3)(vi)) requires “back-up personnel shall stand by with equipment ready to provide assistance or rescue. Advanced first aid support personnel, as a minimum, shall also stand by with medical equipment and transportation capability.” This is required whenever personnel are entering the “hot zone” of the hazardous materials incident.
  3. OSHA’s Fall Protection Systems Criteria & Practices Standard (1926.502(d)(20)) requires that “the employer shall provide for prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves” whenever employees are working at heights using personal fall protection systems (harnesses, lanyards, Etc.)
  4. OSHA’s Specific Excavation Requirements Standard (1926.651(g)(2)) specifies circumstances under which rescue services are required, specifically when employees enter excavations with hazardous atmospheres  or bell-bottom pier holes. It also specifies required equipment.
  5. OSHA’s Medical Services & First Aid Standard (1910.151) requires that employers provide “adequately trained” personnel to render first aid along with “adequate first aid supplies.”
  6. Many industry standards, such as NFPA, require medical or rescue standby teams for operations beyond what is required by OSHA.

Q: Does calling the fire department in the event of an emergency qualifies as a rescue plan / rescue standby team?

A: The fire department can be utilized as a rescue team provided they are notified prior to the commencement of the job and agree to provide this service. Waiting until an emergency occurs to notify the fire department is considered inadequate for complying with these requirements. The employer is required to make arrangements with a rescue service (internal rescue services included) prior to the commencement of the operation requiring the rescue team. It is the option of the fire department to refuse to allocate resources for this function. Employers must also ensure that any outside rescue teams understand the responsibilities of this function.

Q: What level of training is required for a rescue team?

A: In terms of medical training, OSHA requires that at least one member of the team holds both a first aid and CPR card. This can also be facilitated by two members with one of these certifications each. Rescue personnel also need to be trained in the operations they are responding to, such as confined space rescue trained for confined space, excavation rescue trained for excavations, etc.


*Unless specific citations are shown, all answers are based on interpretations provided by authorized officials. As such, all information is deemed reliable, but not guaranteed.