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How to lift a manhole cover

Save time, effort, damage and personal injury

Author: Dee Jones/04 October 2019/Categories: HEALTH & SAFETY, Personal safety at work, WORKPLACE ADVICE, Maintenance

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Manhole covers or maintenance hole covers are removable plates that form the lid over an opening of a manhole. This is an opening that a person can pass through or maintenance can be conducted from. It usually gains access to a utility vault, pipe or void and can be rectangular, square or circular, whilst coming in a whole variety of sizes.

Manhole covers are made out of cast iron, concrete, glass-reinforced plastic or a composite material. They are usually very heavy so that their own weight keeps them in place, and they can also be strong enough to withstand traffic passing over them. The weight also makes it difficult for unauthorised people without suitable tools to be able to remove them as theft of these covers is a constant problem. The covers usually sit on a metal base that has a smaller inset rim which will fit the specific sized cover and they will normally have "pick holes", into which a hook handle or lifting key can be inserted in order to lift them. However, many manhole covers are large, heavy and sometimes very difficult to lift, so there are a range of tools designed to help with this process. If your manhole cover is damaged or missing, then it will need to be replaced. In the case of damage then the metal base will also need inspecting because these are susceptible to damage as well as the cover itself. Identifying your cover will be the first step and there are a number of websites that can help like for this very purpose. Removing and lifting of manhole covers is often a difficult process, so the purchase of the correct manhole cover lifter should be carefully considered. A checklist of details for risk assessment should be drawn up as follows:

  1. Is the manhole cover that is being lifted either damaged or part missing? If so, then careful analysis will be required to assess if a lifting tool will be suitable for this process. It may be that some professional help may be required to complete the job safely.
  2. Identify the manhole cover or maintenance cover from a reputable source and ensure that the type, size and weight of the cover is established.
  3. Confirm whether the cover can be lifted manually by using the traditional hook handle or lifting keys without the risk of personal injury or damage to either the cover itself or adjacent materials.
  4. Is the manhole cover in question situated in a clear and level position on your site?
  5. Can the ground surrounding the main frame of the manhole cover be considered safe for use of a lifting tool? For instance, if the manhole is surrounded by soft ground like maybe a grassed area then the lifting tool could in theory sink into the grass and become ineffective.
  6. Is there sufficient area surrounding the manhole cover to operate the lifting tool?
  • manual manhole cover lifters

    The most basic and simplest to operate lifting tool is the manual manhole lifting arm, which can be operated as a single or double lift.

  • “confined space

    The next type of lifter is one that is designed to operate in confined spaces.

  • hydraulic lifter

    We then move into a lightweight hydraulic lifter that is designed to be demountable for ease of use at many different sites..

  • heavy duty lifter

    Finally, the heavier duty tool that has high lift and rough terrain options available.

  • The important factor is to consider the exact manhole cover in question, the surrounding environment, the size and weight factors involved plus the ability of the operator to use the lifting tools available.

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