Manhole Cover Lifters
including the Manhole Buddy range

A Manhole Buddy system allows an average build person to comfortably lift a cover equal to their own weight.

  • You raise the cover by pushing downwards, thereby eliminating lifting and twisting injuries
  • You stand well clear of the cover so are not going to crush fingers, drop the cover on your toes or put a foot in the open chamber
  • With the magnetic version, there's no need to clear keyholes, so lifting is both fast and easy

Manhole Buddy makes lifting covers a safe one-person operation, is ideal for lone workers and equally suitable for male and female operatives.


A Manhole Buddy system comprises a Lifting Trolley and a Cover Attachment. Listed below are the  most commonly purchased Manhole Buddy configurations. When you click a button, you will be connected to the relevant page on the Sunrise Tools website, where you will find more information, pictures, videos and prices

MagTec Mega Duty Set  - the fastest cover lifter and our best-seller

Comprises a Steel Lifting Trolley
and a MagTec Mega Duty Magnet; combination certified to lift metallic covers up to 125 kg. Very often the effort required to unseat a jammed cover is greater than that needed to lift it. By first placing the magnet on the edge of the cover and using the high leverage capability, most covers can be ‘freed up’ and will therefore be significantly easier to lift. And no time has been spent clearing key slots!


Manhole Buddy Steel Lifting Trolley and MagTec Magnet


824.00  excluding carriage and VAT



More info Manhole Buddy MagTec Mega Duty Lifter set






KeyTec Mega Duty Set - the universal solution for all cover types

Comprises a
Steel Lifting Trolley
and a KeyTec Spreader Bar, with three pairs of cover keys (different sizes/profiles) for securing the Spreader Bar to the cover. Combination certified to lift covers up to 125 kg. All the attributes of the Lifting Trolley still apply - high leverage unseating and low effort one-person lifting. Can also lift indoor covers (typically having threaded attachment points). 360 degree access to all covers. Carry bag for KeyTec items included.


Manhole Buddy Steel Lifting Trolley

Manhole Buddy KeyTec Spreader Bar kit

878.00  excluding carriage and VAT


More info Manhole Buddy KeyTec Mega Duty Lifter set






Best of Both Mega Duty Set  -  our 2nd best-selling package

As the name suggests, combines the
Steel Lifting Trolley with both the
MagTec Mega Duty Magnet and a full
KeyTec Spreader Bar kit, including cover keys and carry bag. Delivers the speed and convenience of the magnetic lifter for metallic covers plus the universal capabilities of the locked-on Spreader Bar for non-metallics, large splits and covers with threaded access points. Popular with Surveyors, Facilities Management teams and Police Forces.


Manhole Buddy Steel Lifting Trolley and MagTec Magnet

Manhole Buddy KeyTec Spreader Bar kit

1299.00  excluding carriage and VAT


More info Manhole Buddy Best of Both Mega Duty  Lifter set







Other  devices that work with the same Manhole Buddy Lifting Trolley include the VacTec vacuum attachment for smooth-surfaced covers and the ChainTec four-leg adjustable chain array. Detailed information on these and all aspects of the Manhole Buddy range can be found at the bottom of this page.


Lifting iced-in manhole cover

But first, a review of the methods traditionally used to lift manhole, drain and pit covers.

Manhole Buddy on Ice
 click image above to watch a short video

Lifting Manhole Covers by Hand    .... best advice “DON’T”
There are still people who will lift manhole covers using levers to pry the cover out of the frame and then by applying their hands directly onto the cover.  Why?  Manhole covers come in all shapes, sizes and weights. Amongst the dangers when trying to manually handle a cover, the greatest is the risk of trapping hands or feet between the cover and the frame or the ground. Thereafter, the thickness and weight of a cover will probably only become apparent once lifting is in progress, which could be a surprise. And the area  surrounding the cover will influence the ability to lift it – if the manhole cover is in a raised position, bordered by a wall or fence, surrounded by an uneven, broken or slippery surface or temporarily obstructed by a vehicle, it becomes difficult to adopt any form of safe lifting posture. And of course the vast majority of covers weigh significantly more than the manual handling limits advised by the Health & Safety Executive – back injuries are part and parcel of manually handling manhole covers.
Manhole covers should not be lifted by hand!

Lifting Manhole Covers with Handheld Lifting Keys
More commonly, people manually handling covers use cover lifting keys. These too come in all shapes and sizes, because there is a range of sizes and shapes of key slot. Drainage engineers usually carry a number of manhole lifting keys to cover the range of manhole covers they are likely to encounter. And one of the obvious risks is the temptation to improvise when the correct key is not available. An ill fitting key increases the risk it will not be retained in the cover slot and the manhole cover will become detached. However, assuming the correct lifting key is available, the user now needs to adopt a good lifting posture. Consider for the moment that a typical manhole cover will be at least 600 mm wide, many much wider. The user must straddle the cover, feet at least 700 mm apart, and attempt a lift with straight back and bent knees
(see HSE Manual Handling Guidance).

Manhole Cover Lifting Keys

Many 600 mm square drainge chambers  are covered by two triangulars manhole covers, fitted with inter-connecting bolts. When lifting such an arrangement, the natural movement between the two parts creates an ungainly load, which increases the dangers for the user as they stand astride the drainage chamber. Even if two people share the load, each having one lifting key, they need to achieve good co-ordination of movement and be able to react together to any unexpected movement. And the potential risks associated with refitting a manhole cover over an open chamber are probably greater, than when removing it.
And once again, there is the issue of weight. Most covers will exceed the advisable lifting limit for one person, many will be more than double the limit, hence beyond the range for a two-person lift. The dangers inherent in manually handling any manhole cover, whether by direct application of hands, or through hand-held cover lifting keys, are clearly considerable - so in all but the most exceptional circumstances, it makes sense to adopt the approach that manhole covers should not be lifted manually!

Traditional Manhole Cover Lifting Systems

Manhole Cover Lifter

Wheeled Manhole Cover Lifter

Hydraulic Manhole Cover Lifter

Manhole Cover Lifter screw type

Manhole Cover Lifters

The majority of manhole cover systems require the cover to be lifted vertically to clear the frame. A small number of designs minimise the lifting requirement and instead facilitate sliding of the cover out of the frame. This approach has the potential to reduce  lifting risks but the inherent installation constraints imposed by the design (usually only being able to withdraw in one direction) result in only a very small proportion of such covers being deployed. And even with these, it is still necessary to find some means of unseating the cover …..

Unseating or freeing a manhole cover from its frame is a significant part of the lifting task. The manhole cover will invariably be embedded in the frame as a result of passing traffic, dirt that has been deposited into the gap between the cover and the frame or perhaps just the effect of corrosion if the cover has not been lifted for some time. The traditional method is to thump the manhole cover with a sledge hammer. Yes, it can often achieve the required result, but at what cost:
-  damaged or broken covers
-  strain or impact injuries to the person wielding the sledge hammer
-  flesh or eye injuries from detached pieces of metal
-  risks to other persons in the vicinity
Similarly, wedges, pry bars and crowbars can be used to force the cover out of the frame. These methods often involve hammering the tool into the gap between the manhole cover and the frame, so the same risks of physical injury, broken covers and flying metal particles apply.

With the exception of the MagTec magnetic attached system, virtually all manhole lifting systems use the key slots to connect with the manhole cover. Whilst these fixed positions might ensure a cover is lifted evenly and uniformly, they sometimes create the need for undue force when trying to unseat the manhole cover – or put another way, they do not permit an unseating effort to be applied right at the edge of the cover, which is where it is best applied. That said, a commonly used method with a fixed position lifter is to apply the lifting force and then use some ‘shock tactics’ on the edge of the manhole cover, repeating the process until the seal is eventually broken. Such a method is an improvement on the ‘sledge hammer only’ approach but still introduces undesirable risks to people and equipment.  There is a better way ....

Manhole Buddy - Manhole Cover Lifting Options

Magnetic Manhole Cover Lifting

Manhole Lifter with Lifting Keys

Manhole Cover Lifter with chain attachment

Vacuum Manhole Cover Lifter

Unseating a Manhole Cover with the Manhole Buddy

Manhole Buddy systems comprise two elements - a cover attachment device and a lifting trolley. Four cover attachment devices are available:

MagTec      magnetic attachment
KeyTec      key-attached system
ChainTec   4 leg chain array
VacTec      manually energised vacuum lifting device

All attachments use the same lifting trolley, available in steel or aluminium. During lifting operations, the user is positioned well clear of the suspended cover and the open chamber, as shown in images above. 

Manhole Buddy MagTec is highly effective on a wide range of metallic covers and is generally unmatched in its speed of deployment and use. Inherent in its design are a number of significant advantages:

  • Firstly, it requires no form of manhole lifting key - ask any drainage engineer how much time is spent cleaning out key slots in covers and you’ll quickly appreciate the simplicity and efficiency of the configuration. Instead, you place the magnet on the manhole cover and operate the On-Off lever. Permanent magnets are used, so no external power or recharging is needed.
  • Secondly (and in common with all Manhole Buddy configurations) it requires no physical lifting effort. The human input required is a downward effort and the mechanical advantage inherent in the design reduces this by almost 2.5 times, relative to the weight of the cover. So it’s easy to lift and move heavy loads.
  • The most effective method of unseating a jammed cover is to apply force nearest possible to the edge. With the Manhole Buddy MagTec, you can place the magnet wherever you choose, so you apply localised force where most appropriate on the cover. And using the lifting trolley’s secondary lifting position, which delivers a mechanical advantage greater than 5:1, unseating covers becomes very easy!
  • Portability and speed of deployment are unrivalled. The lifting trolley (Steel or Aluminium) can be comfortably carried in one hand and unfolded within 15 seconds. You then hook the trolley onto the magnet lifting frame and start work. Up and running within 30 seconds. Refolding the trolley at the end of the job is no more than a 15 second task, whereupon it can be stored neatly in the boot of a car!

Full product information, images and video clips can be found at

Manhole Buddy KeyTec can be used on any cover with traditional key slots but is most commonly used on non-metallic covers, large split covers or those with threaded connection points, generally used within buildings. Central to the KeyTec configuration is a load spreader bar, which is secured to the manhole cover using threaded lifting keys. Connection to the lifting trolley is through the same rotating lifting hanger (as fitted to the MagTec). In this way, the unseating and lifting functions, first introduced with the MagTec, are fully replicated. So, save for the fact that the keyholes now need to be cleaned out, Manhole Buddy KeyTec delivers the same safe and effective cover removal on any cover with a key slot or threaded lifting insert.
Click here for detailed information on the Manhole Buddy KeyTec

Manhole Buddy ChainTec was created as a low-cost solution to lifting concrete-topped pavement covers with ovalised 20 mm key slots, but the universality of the lifting hook attachment has made it suitable for many other lifting applications. As with the other attachments, the rotating lifting hanger means a cover can be approached from any angle.
Click here for more detailed information on the Manhole Buddy ChainTec.

Manhole Buddy VacTec mirrors the basic functions of the MagTec magnetic system in that the lifting key slots are not used to make a connection with the cover. And just like the MagTec magnet, the VacTec attachment needs no external power or recharging - the user generates the vacuum by 3 or 4 downward strokes of the charging handle. VacTec requires a relatively smooth and flat surface such as concrete-topped pavement covers or paving slabs
Click here for more detailed information on the Manhole Buddy VacTec.

There are numerous alternative manhole cover lifters on the market. All are capable to varying degrees of lifting drainage covers. Many fall out of favour due to their size and complexity, including the need to assemble multiple parts, before work can commence. By contrast, the Manhole Buddy range delivers a common approach to handling the widest range of covers, in probably the fastest and safest manner. It is probably the manhole lifter most likely to deter workers from reaching for the handheld lifting keys. And that will undoubtedly lessen the potential for injuries!

Click here to go to the Manhole Buddy Video Gallery

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