Firefighters, in the course of their work, may enter a confined space.

A confined space is a fully or partially enclosed space, that is not designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy, and in which atmospheric hazards may occur because of its construction, location or contents or because of work that is done in it.


Hazards in confined spaces may include toxic substances, lack of oxygen, moving equipment, electricity, corrosive or toxic liquids, "quick-sand" type material and falling objects.

Confined space rescues require special preparation to ensure that firefighters safely carry out their duties.

Actions for employers

While many of the requirements in O. Reg. 632/05 - Confined Spaces, do not apply to emergency work performed by firefighters there are certain requirements that do apply.

Employers must:

  • provide training to firefighters on safe work practices for working in confined spaces and for performing related work including the recognition of hazards associated with confined spaces
  • maintain records of the training
  • appoint a person with adequate knowledge, training and experience to conduct the training
  • develop and review the training in consultation with the joint health and safety committee or the health and safety representative, if any
  • review the training whenever there is a change in circumstances that may affect worker safety and at least once a year
  • provide personal protective equipment, clothing and devices for the adequate protection of the firefighter
  • develop written procedures and other measures for the adequate protection of the firefighter

Precautions for confined space entry

Consider these precautions for working in confined spaces:

  • inspect and calibrate gas detection devices
  • ensure that established lock-out procedures for equipment and other hazards have been implemented and followed
  • test the atmosphere before entry and continuously while crews are inside (Note: many toxic gases are odourless)
  • ventilate flammable atmospheres below the lower explosive limit before entering and ventilate the confined space continuously while crews are inside
  • where a flammable or combustible material presents a fire hazard, station a fire crew in full protective gear with a backup hose-line at the entrance to the confined space

Firefighters entering a confined space should:

  • be able to communicate with the back-up rescue team using the appropriate communications devices
  • wear a full-body class III rescue harness securely attached to a rope with the free end fastened to a stationary object outside the confined space
  • consider using a mechanical retrieval device which may be more effective than manual retrieval
  • be supported by an appropriately equipped back-up rescue team located at the entrance to the confined space
  • establish traffic control to prevent injury to rescuers

Providing contracted confined space on-site rescue

There may be situations where fire departments make contractual arrangements to provide confined space “on-site rescue” to private industry. In these pre-planned, non-emergency situations, all requirements of O. Reg. 632/05 - Confined Spaces apply. Some examples of requirements in the regulation include:

  • workers must receive appropriate plan-specific training to perform the confined space rescue
  • workers must be capable of immediately implementing the relevant plan and the written on-site rescue procedures that apply to the confined space

Applicable regulations and acts


Applicable standards

For levels of functional capability for efficiently and effectively conducting operations at technical search and rescue incidents, read NFPA 1670 - Standard on operations and training for technical search and rescue incidents

For minimum job performance requirements for fire service personnel who perform technical rescue operations, read NFPA 1006 – Standard for technical rescuer professional qualifications

For acquiring new life safety ropes or related equipment, read NFPA 1983 – Standard on life safety rope and equipment for emergency services

For a set of standards that covers program management; system design; training; qualification and testing; equipment, component and system specifications for the processes used to protect workers at height in a managed fall protection program, read ANSI Z359.1 The fall protection code

For design, testing, marking, and information requirements for use of full body harnesses, read CSA Z259.10 Full body harnesses


For assistance in understanding the requirements of O. Reg. 632/05 - Confined Spaces, read the Ministry of Labour Confined spaces guideline.

Read firefighter guidance notes: