How to Lift a Manhole Cover

Manholes play a vital role in the maintenance of your area’s infrastructure, and their concepts date back to the Roman civilization.  Many of our everyday utility needs, including electricity, gas, telephone, waste removal, and water, come from underground wires, pipes, drains, and sewers. Manholes are openings in the ground that provide utility workers easier access to the systems they monitor. These manholes are equipped with a heavy cover that requires certain tools to remove. Easy and quick access to these areas is imperative for the maintenance of our public utility systems.

Manholes have four primary purposes.  The first purpose is to provide easy and quick access to speed up inspections of storm drains and sewers, as well as for maintenance and blockage removal of these areas.  Second, sewers require the ventilation of gases to ensure no gas buildup occurs which may be potentially dangerous.  Third, manholes allow workers to change the setup of the sewer system, including joining systems or changing the direction of the underground flow.  Finally, manholes help with the actual laying of the sewer lines in consistent and convenient lengths.

Manhole covers are a crucial piece of the manhole as it protects the public and the utility system from any injury.  Historically, manhole covers were made out of varying forms of cast iron, many with unique patterns and designs.  Cast iron has been a popular choice for manhole covers due to its economy and durability.  The heavyweight of the manhole cover helps hold the cover in place as heavy vehicles drive over them.  A serious issue with the use of cast iron manhole covers is the weight of the cover, which has been known to cause injury to utility workers trying to hurry to remove it.

Using a Manhole Cover Lifter

Cast iron manhole covers are heavy and can weigh more than 250 pounds. Removing a manhole cover can be difficult, especially if it has been wedged, or even cemented, in place for an extended period of time. Manhole cover lifters come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from simple manhole cover hooks, or keys as they are sometimes called, to heavy-duty magnetic lifters with dollies.  Manhole cover keys are a practical approach to small, lighter manhole covers and come in a variety of sizes.  Ensuring you have the right kind of hook on your lifter for the specific manhole cover hole is important or you will not be able to remove the cover.  Manhole cover keys require you to use proper lifting techniques to avoid injury. Magnetic manhole cover lifters take some of the risk of physical injury out of the removal of manhole covers.  Of course, these magnetic lifters come in various shapes and sizes depending on the type of cover you need to remove.  Once you have the right lifter for the job, make sure the area is free of dirt and debris that would make the manhole cover difficult to dislodge, also ensure any magnets you are using are free of debris.  Some magnetic manhole cover lifters are multi-purpose tools that come equipped with hammers or scrapers to help dislodge stuck covers. Operating a magnetic manhole cover lifter requires the placement of the magnets on the manhole cover and then pulling back to remove the cover from the manhole.   Some magnetic lifters are able to turn off the magnets or have a quick unlock system that will release the manhole cover from the lifter when the job is done.

U.S.SAWS Manhole Lifter Solutions

Companies like U.S.SAWS have developed a variety of manhole cover lifters that provide solutions for all types and sizes of manhole covers, from handheld magnetic cover lifters to full system lifters with dollies, as well as any accessories you may need.  The Megatron 5 Magnet Break N’ Take is a handheld magnetic cover lifter that makes easy work of any manhole cover up to 350 pounds.  This tool utilizes neodymium magnets, which are among the strongest magnets in the world.

For those heavy lifting jobs, a Supreme Duty Collapsible Dolly with 10” hard wheels and a mega duty magnet will get the job done.  This lifting system can handle covers up to 900 pounds.  This heavy-duty manhole cover lifter keeps the operator at a safe distance while lifting, can fold down for easy transport, allows for two lift positions, and is compact and lightweight.

There are many accessories out there to enhance both the practical and safety features of magnetic manhole cover lifters.  The orange 42” Manhole Barrier offers more visibility of the worker and protection for the worker and the general public.  The Twin Magnet Spreader Bar allows you to add an additional magnet to your lifting system for increased stability and lifting force when lifting large or uneven lids.

Contact U.S.SAWS today to discuss your manhole cover lifting needs!


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