Think Outside the Vault

April 7, 2020
Aboveground backflow enclosures for safety purposes.

Utility vaults are dangerous for a number of reasons — the most important being that they put lives at risk on a daily basis.

Backflow preventers are critical to protecting our water supply. They keep contaminated water from coming in contact with drinking water. This is called a cross-connection. But many backflow preventers are installed in utility vaults, which increases the risk of cross-connection and the dangers for the people who test backflow preventers.

OSHA considers utility vaults confined spaces and defines the risks associated with them. These include:

• Poisonous gases

• Restricted means of entry and exit

• Entrapment

Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Program show that nearly 100 people die in confined spaces each year.

In addition, odorless gases can naturally build up in a vault, causing further safety concerns in addition to threats associated with oxygen deficiency, combustible dust, and even radiation.

When a vault floods, the risk for a cross-connection increases significantly.

“All that stagnant, dirty, muddy, horrible water can get sucked through the test cocks of the backflow preventer and into your clean drinking water,” Cary Wiley, national sales manager at Safe-T-Cover, said.

In short, when things go wrong in a vault, they can go horribly wrong. This is why more and more water jurisdictions are opting to install backflow preventers aboveground in a backflow enclosure, thinking “outside the vault.”

A Safe-T-Cover industrial enclosure provides freeze protection and vandal protection for backflow preventers, pumps and valves. Constructed of marine-grade 5052-H32 aluminum, the enclosures have been known to outlast the equipment they cover. Safe-T-Cover’s entire production line of backflow covers are ASSE 1060 standard-compliant and come in more than 50 standard sizes to cover backflow preventers from all leading manufacturers. WW

Safe-T-Cover helps engineers and municipalities protect important industrial equipment and water infrastructure. Learn more at