Health & Safety

Confined Space Emergency Response Guidelines


All workers who must enter any confined space on the UWM campus must be familiar with these procedures before entry:

  1. Checklist

    Review and complete the "Confined Space Entry Checklist" prior to entry. The response to each question must be either "Yes" or "Not Applicable" in order to proceed with the entry.

  2. Prevention

    The best way to survive an emergency involving a confined space is to avoid having the emergency. These procedures assume that workers entering a confined space will follow procedures established for routine entry into confined spaces. While some of the requirements may seem unusual or cumbersome, the procedures are necessary to prevent emergencies or to help workers survive a confined space emergency. Workers must complete the "Confined Space Entry Checklist," follow the precautions listed on the Campus Confined Space Inventory and any other specific procedures established by your unit.

  3. Preparation

    Prior to any confined space entry, contact the University Police to provide information regarding the entry: location of the confined space, personnel involved, duration of entry, and any other relevant information. If the police have been pre-notified of your confined space entry, they will have fewer questions and there will be less confusion during the emergency. The University Police are trained "first responders" and can respond to an emergency at any location on campus within two minutes. In the event of a confined space emergency, the University Police will notify the City of Milwaukee Confined Space Rescue Team of the Milwaukee Fire Department's HazMat Team.

    Another key to confined space emergency response is having adequate communication available to quickly summon trained assistance. Most confined space assessments require that two-way communication be established between the entrant and the safety attendant, or safety watch. Some preplanning is needed to establish who will contact emergency responders in the event of an emergency. The following hierarchy is offered as a possible plan.

    1. First, the two way communications between the entrant and the safety watch may also link to others who can notify the University Police. The two-way radios have a direct link to the University Police. You can request that the police monitor this channel when you call to alert them of your confined space entry.
    2. If the two way communication does not reach other assistance, enlist the help of any passers-by. Direct them to contact the University Police from the nearest Emergency Call Box (the yellow boxes with the purple beacons). Stay at the confined entry location until emergency responders arrive and do NOT attempt a rescue entry.
    3. If no one is in the vicinity who can call the University Police for you, inform your co-worker that you are going for help and call from the nearest campus phone or Emergency Call Box. Return to the confined space location until trained assistance arrives, but do NOT attempt a confined space rescue.
    4. If the emergency involves a person hurt or unconscious within a confined space and if the victim is connected to an emergency retrieval system and if you have been trained in the proper procedures for the retrieval system, first try to call for help, if feasible. Then, try to retrieve your co-worker if you are trained to operate the retrieval system.
    5. Do NOT move the victim if a back or neck injury is suspected. The proper use of the fall protection system (an integral part of our emergency retrieval system) should prevent these types of injuries in most cases. Be aware of incidents which could still happen involving damage to the spine or neck.

Contacting The University Police.

  • From any campus telephone: Dial 9-911

  • From any Emergency Call Box: Push the red button and hold until the dispatcher answers. Once the call is answered, release the button.
  • From a cell phone: Dial 229-9911. You will be connected with the UWM Police Department Dispatcher. UWM University Police will arrive in addition to other emergency responders.
  1. State that you have a confined space emergency
  2. Describe the nature of the emergency (injury, entrapment, fire)
  3. State the location of the incident
  4. Give your name
  5. Stay on the line until the police have finished asking you for any further information. Let the police hang up, not you.

If you are able to contact the police directly, less confusion will occur than if some untrained intermediary is involved. However, in an emergency, just about anyone should be able to coherently contact the police from one of the Emergency Call Boxes. The police can at least identify which box is being used to make the call. Clearly stating that the incident involves a confined space is crucial to prompt mobilization of trained rescue personnel.

Again, remember to use the established precautions listed on the Confined and Hazardous Space Inventory. Copies of the inventory are available from Physical Plant Services or the Department of University Safety and Assurances.

If you notice any hazards not addressed by the precautions on the Confined and Hazardous Space Inventory, bring those concerns to the attention of your supervisor, the PPS Safety Committee and/or the Department of University Safety & Assurances.

DISCLAIMER: This information, its instructions and guidance pertain only to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Other institutions, firms and laboratories should not use this information without significant review and scrutiny. General practices, restrictions and guidelines will differ for other institutions and firms that are located in other cities or states. Other institutions and firms are subject to state and local laws that may differ substantially from those at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.