Lightweight, incredibly strong composite covers with zero resale value in the scrap market are the perfect alternative to metal and are health and safety friendly.

The perfect metal theft deterrent

Unfortunately, metal theft is accelerating at an even faster rate than metal prices and is now a nationwide epidemic in the United States. Since 2009 in New York alone 1,300 to 1,600 covers have gone missing each year, Philadelphia has recently reported 600 stolen covers in a year and the Public Works department in Chicago experienced the theft of 200 covers in just one week. The cost of scrap metal is ever rising, from $77 a ton in 2001, to $300 a ton in 2004 and now reaching a staggering $500 a ton.

There are few industries that can hide from the thieves. A metal target still proving very popular with thieves is manhole covers. However consequences in this case of theft can be incredibly dangerous. Inevitably when gaping holes are left in the ground accidents happen and there are plenty of stories to show this.

Recent headline news

  • “Elderly Woman Falls Through Uncovered Manhole”
  • “Teenage girl falls down manhole while sending text”
  • “Thieves around the US stealing manhole covers”

Sadly even YouTube is full of videos showing metal covers being removed and ‘how to steal metal manhole covers’ guides.

So is there a solution to this epidemic problem? In the case of manhole covers, yes, using alternative materials to metal such as composite is proving to be an ideal solution. The cost benefits speak for themselves. For example, Fibrelite’s lightweight access covers are a one-time cost as they will not be stolen for their resale value. Also, as they are lightweight there is no need for any heavy lifting equipment or the danger of any injuries to operators. These covers are fully lockable with a minimum guaranteed lifespan of 15 maintenance free years. So once installed in the ground, they stay in the ground.

Clearly catching the thieves is an absolute must, but if there is an alternative…

Fibrelite’s slip resistant covers are highly effective in covering manholes and trenches that contain cable, wire or fluid and perfect for where occasional or frequent access is required as they are such a lightweight alternative to metal and concrete. They are unaffected by underground gasses and most chemicals, particularly those involved with sewer lines.

More burning issues with metal

It’s not just the theft of metal that makes for a health and safety hazard for covering manholes. Steam reaching temperatures of up to 200°F rising from underground pipes through the metal covers can severely burn pedestrians. Fibrelite's covers exceed DOT H20 and H25 even when subjected to temperatures up to 400°F and are available in different load ratings without altering the dimensions of the cover. 

Recent horror headlines

  • “Manhole Cover Steam Burns Seattle Man”
  • “9-year-old burned by steam from downtown manhole”
  • “Mother: Girl burned after stepping on covered manhole in Detroit”
  • “Boy burned by steam from manhole cover”
  • “Woman Burned by Scorching Hot Manhole Cover Sues”

Composite cost versus metal

  • The Fibrelite cover will be a one-time charge as it will not be stolen for scrap value 
  • Also has the added benefit of low maintenance
  • The cover will not corrode and will not need to be painted
  • No hinges or mechanical parts which will seize up or fail and will need replacing
  • Lightweight, zero risk of back/finger injuries (zero cost from employee insurance claims)
  • Covers will not be stolen and will not leave a dangerous open hole in the ground (zero cost from public injury claims)

Summary of composite benefits – Fibrelite set the standard

  • Composite is lightweight, strong and the monolithic structure will not delaminate or corrode
  • Easy and safe manual removal
  • Completely watertight - will not allow gases or liquids in or out
  • Lifting aid eliminates back injury and crushed fingers
  • Wide range of sizes available
  • Guaranteed for 15 free years with a life expectancy of significantly longer
  • Non-metallic, non-conductive and will not spark
  • Excellent insulator against heat
  • Unaffected by underground gasses and most chemicals
  • Treads incorporate an anti-slip material equivalent to modern high grade road
  • Perfect for access to drains, ducts, pipework
  • Range of UV stable colors available that will not flake or crack

No slips or trips

Another health and safety benefit is that Fibrelite’s covers provide an excellent anti-slip/skid surface which is guaranteed for the life of the cover. These high quality composite covers are manufactured in a closed mold environment combining long strand multi-directional fiberglass with a specifically formulated resin matrix  to produce an extremely durable but lightweight, (approx. 1/3rd the weight of steel or cast iron) cover.

Not just manhole covers

To provide a guide, typical applications for these access covers include: access for electrical junction boxes, access points for piping, airport meter pits, catch basin covers, sanitary access covers, fuel tanks, grease trap covers, leak detection covers, meter pits, monitoring wells, non-conductive electrical drawpits, oil water separators, pipe trench covers, piping sumps, removable planking, sewer access, submersible pumps, tank gauge covers, underground chambers, underground communication boxes, valve boxes.

Fibrelite background

Fibrelite is considered the industry standard for quality composite access covers. Having established a global reputation for high quality products and superior after sales service the company continues to lead the way in composite innovation.

Fibrelite announced earlier this year it has expanded global operations with the opening of a new Malaysian production and service facility in order to meet accelerating demand. In addition to this new facility, Fibrelite also has a 30,000sq ft. factory in the UK and a 35,000sq ft. plant in the US.

More information can be found at