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How to lift a manhole cover with manhole keys

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  WD says "Manhole covers are heavy!  Be careful not to trap your hands  or feet under them!"
Leaves and debris on a manhole checker plate

Step 1 – Clear debris

Firstly, use a firm brush to sweep the cover free of debris, including leaves, mud, twigs etc.

A screwdriver is a good tool to scrape mud and rust from the manhole cover

Step 2 – Clear edge

Use the bevelled edge of your manhole key to scrape any mud and rust away from around the edge of the manhole cover.

Ask another person to help lift the manhole cover as they are very heavy

Step 3 – Ask someone to help

Ask a co-worker to lift with you. The job will usually need two people as cast iron manhole covers are very heavy and need to be lifted vertically and laid down safely. However, plastic and lightweight manhole covers can be lifted by a single person.

Using a short manhole key to lift a manhole or inspection cover

Step 4 – Insert keys

Insert the keys into the keyway.

Twist the key half way to lock it in place. In the locked position, the key will not come free from the slot. It doesn’t matter whether the key is turned clockwise or anti-clockwise, either direction will allow you to reach a locked position. You can now lift the manhole cover.

two people lifting a manhole cover with short keys

Step 5 – Communicate

Make sure your co-worker is doing the same thing at the same time as you. Double check that both keys are locked firmly in place.

Person communicating where is safe to place the lifted cover after lifting

Step 6 – Place cover

Plan with your co-worker where you will put the cover. Ensure that neither of you will have to step over the hole to place the cover on the ground. You will both have to walk sideways to avoid one of you falling in.

Two people lifting correctly

Step 7 – Lift cover

Make sure both you and your co-worker are bending your knees. Agree to lift at exactly the same time and then lay the cover on the ground in the agreed place.

If the cover is stuck…

A chequer plate being struck with a piece of wood Strike the cover firmly around the edge with a piece of timber. The vibration should loosen it.
Drop some oil into the nuts if they are rusted and stuck Some covers are screwed into place with bolts, if they become stuck, try soaking them in oil before trying to undo them.
Spray WD40 aro0und the edge of the manhole cover to help free it if it is stuck Spray around the edge of the manhole cover with WD40 and leave it for a while; this can help to loosen it.
Prise holes in a manhole coverA man holding a crowbar If there are prise holes around the edge of the manhole cover, insert a crowbar into the holes to loosen the cover before lifting.