Role of the confined space standby person

We are regularly asked, “Why cannot my one day confined space trained personnel act as a standby?”  The issue here is, the one day confined space trained person is actually trained in the skills of entering and working in a confined space.  That course covers the hazards and typical control measures for working in the space, and when a. they should not enter, and b. when working in the space, when to get out.  So it is a generic course designed to provide enough information for workers to work safely in a confined space.  This covers a “duty of care” for working in a confined space.

Acting as a confined space standby/observer places additional responsibilities on a person not covered in the one day course.  To act as a confined space standby/observer the workers “duty of care” is dramatically increased, and therefore they require a higher level of training.


The “Work Health and Safety Regulations”state:

69 Communication and safety monitoring

A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that a worker does not enter a confined space to carry out work unless the person provides a system of work that includes:

(a) continuous communication with the worker from outside the space; and

(b) monitoring of conditions within the space by a standby person who is in the vicinity of the

space and, if practicable, observing the work being carried out.

Maximum penalty:

In the case of an individual—$6 000.

In the case of a body corporate—$30 000

74  Emergency procedures

(1) A person conducting a business or undertaking must:

(a) establish first aid procedures and rescue procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency in a confined space; and

(b) ensure that the procedures are practised as necessary to ensure that they are efficient and effective.

Maximum penalty:

In the case of an individual—$6 000.

In the case of a body corporate—$30 000.

(2) The person must ensure that first aid and rescue procedures are initiated from outside the confined space as soon as practicable in an emergency.


Maximum penalty:

In the case of an individual—$6 000.

In the case of a body corporate—$30 000.


In order to satisfy the standby persons training and qualification requirements it is incumbent on the organisation and persons in control of the business or undertaking (PCBU) to carry out risk assessments that are specific to their confined spaces. These risk assessments need to identify the hazards, risks, controls and means of rescue of persons from their confined spaces. It is the outcome of these risk assessments that will lead to the training requirements of “Standby Persons”.

The Work Health and Safety Regulation also states in relation to training:

“76 The training provided to relevant workers must cover:

  • the nature of all hazards associated with a confined space
  • the need for, and appropriate use of, risk control measures
  • the selection, use, fit, testing and storage of any personal protective equipment
  • the contents of any relevant confined space entry permit
  • emergency procedures.”


Therefore any training program must address this criteria when reviewing its standby persons training needs. The level of training will again be dependent on the outcome of the confined space risk assessments.

Where the risks indicate high risk then the training should be given at a level that captures these high risks,. The reverse to this is where the risks are low then the training can be given for these risk levels.

Examples may be where  a high risk confined space requires persons to use breathing apparatus and that the rescue requirements require the use of specific rescue equipment and procedures. Where as on the other hand a low risk confined space may not require the use of breathing apparatus and rescue may be a simple recovery via a horizontal opening.

So what level of training is required?

Sydney Safety Training offer a two confined space training courses that will cover your standby/observer:

Confined Space 2 Day Course – GAS TEST & ISSUE PERMITS, ideal where your risk assessment indicates you have a low level of risk while working in confined spaces at your workplace.

Units covered are:
RIIRIS201B                             Conduct local risk control
MSAPMPER200C                  Work in accordance with an issued permit
RIIWHS202D                         Enter and work in confined spaces
MSAPMOHS217A                  Gas test atmospheres
MSAPMPER300C                  Issue work permits
PRMPFES05B                         Use of portable firefighting equipment


Confined Space 3 Day Course – RESCUE/STANDBY where the levels of risk are high and rescue may require entry wearing some form of respiratory protection.

Units covered are:
RIIRIS201B                              Conduct local risk control
MSAPMPER200C                   Work in accordance with an issued permit
RIIWHS202D                          Enter and work in confined spaces
MSAPMOHS217A                   Gas test atmospheres
MSAPMPER300C                   Issue work permits
PRMPFES05B                          Use of portable firefighting equipment
MSAPMOHS216A                   Operate breathing apparatus (Work/Rescue)
PUASAR025A                          Undertake confined space rescue (Rescue)
HLTAID001                              Provide Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
MSAPMPER202A                   Observe permit work (Standby)

If you are still unsure of the level of training your staff require, I would suggest that the Confined Space 3 Day Course should be your selection.


The Confined Space Standby/Observer

In all situations a stand-by person/attendant must be posted outside the confined space when work is performed, and must remain on duty throughout the duration of the entry, unless relieved by another person of equivalent experience and training. This individual should be provided with the same level of protection worn by those within the confined space so that they can look into the vessel also.

The specific duties of the standby person include the following:

  • Maintain an accurate count of all persons within the confined space
  • Monitor activities inside and outside the confined space to determine whether it remains safe for the entrants to remain inside the confined space.
  • The standby/observer needs to be competent in gas detection procedures and protocols to ensure safety of workers in the space if required.
  • Enforce the confined space permit and comply with its control measures including the rescue plan.
  • Maintain effective and continuous contact with ALL the people working inside the space using radio, agreed hand signals, horn lights etc.
  • Prevent entry of unauthorised persons into the confined space
  • Order evacuation of the confined space if necessary
  • Initiate the rescue plan and notify emergency services
  • Supervise the rescue without entering the confined space
  • The stand-by person should attempt to remove the entrants from the confined space using tripods, hoists and lifelines. They must NEVER enter the confined space. Only properly trained and equipped emergency rescue personnel may enter the confined space to make a rescue

.**   Over 60% of workers who die in confined spaces are would-be rescuers.

The General Principles of Confined Space Work

If a safe alternative to working within a confined space cannot be found, the following steps must be taken prior to entry:

  • Conduct a risk assessment
  • Obtain entry and work permits
  • Use lock-out and tag-out systems to isolate all forms of energy
  • Isolate the area and post warning signs
  • Check all Personal Protective Equipment and Respiratory Protective Equipment
  • Ensure safety equipment is onsite, checked and ready for use
  • Purge/ventilate  the confined space (purging can be accomplished using steam, water, inert gas or air)
  • Test the atmosphere for harmful gases/vapours with a gas detection device where required
  • Ensure stand-by persons are present
  • Ensure an emergency response plan including planned exit routes, rescue team and emergency services is in place & rehearsed.