Safe Work Practice – Manhole and Grate Opening

Fiore and Sons Inc. as a utility and earth moving contractor has a risk for injury when opening manholes and storm sewer grates. Although a routine task, improperly opening manholes can result in an injury.

Removing Manhole lid

Due Diligence

Before opening a manhole or grate carry out the following:

  • Obtain authorization to open the manhole. Some installations require a permit from the owner before proceeding.
  • Secure the area with cones or barricades as necessary to protect the public.
  • Have correct and adequate tools for the job on hand. Shovel, block, manhole hook, large screwdriver, sledgehammer may all be needed depending on the type of lid.
  • Obtain 811 locates if the job will require excavating near or beside a manhole or grating.
  • Be prepared to perform air monitoring and testing with a calibrated device.
  • Hold a Safety Huddle Toolbox to discuss the details of the operation.
  • Ensure the crew is trained in the Safe Work Practice for opening gratings and manholes.

Safe Work Practice

Below is a pictorial representation of the appropriate way to open a manhole. Many manholes differ in design and may require more thought and preparation to have the correct tools and plan in place before starting. Do not underestimate the danger and risk of the task.

Many manholes differ in design

Removing Manhole lid or grating:

  • Have a co-worker watch for traffic. Strike the lid with a hammer if necessary to loosen it.
  • Clean out the pick pocket and firmly insert the hook into the lid opening.
  • Come to the far side of the manhole before picking. Stand on the opposite side of the hook.
  • With your back straight and your knees slightly bent use the hook as a lever to pop open the lid.
  • Firmly plant your feet and with your back straight use your legs to push down on the hook and pry up the lid.
  • To readjust the hook pry point, insert a block between the lid and rim. Do not place fingers or feet under lid.
  • Pull the lid toward yourself using care not to place your fingers or feet under the lid.
  • Drag the lid toward yourself and onto the ground. Be able to see the opening the whole time you are pulling the lid.
  • Prop the lid on a block so it’s easier to reinsert the hook later to replace the lid.

Replacing the Manhole lid or grating:

  • Clean the rim edge to remove debris that keeps the lid from seating properly. Do not lean over the opening.
  • Move to the opposite side of the lid and place the hook underneath it.
  • Do not place your fingers under the lid or use your foot as a block to set the hook.
  • Remove the block and any nearby tools so they do not end up in the bottom of the manhole.
  • Plant your feet and with a straight back use your legs to slide the lid back over the opening.
  • Do not rush and do not pull with your back to lift the lid back in place.
  • On the opposite side of the lid use your foot or shovel to push the lid back in. Keep the lid between you and the opening.

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