Dumpster diving turns deadly: Waste Management warns against sleeping in dumpsters

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – According to the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, there are approximately 119 people who are homeless in Harrison County. However, when the temperature goes down, some will try to seek shelter in a dumpster. 

Harrison County has one of the largest populations of homeless people in the state, according to WVCEH

Sleeping in a dumpster is not only uncomfortable—it’s also incredibly dangerous. Garbage trucks are designed to compact trash, and if someone ends up in the back of the truck, there’s a possibility that they could be crushed to death.

“Obviously it’s hydraulic pressure, and there’s a lot of tonnage that goes into those trash trucks,” said William Kniceley, Financial Analyst at Waste Management, “and so the greatest risk is death at the worst.”

It’s definitely emotional when you think that you almost killed somebody. You know, when you didn’t even know they were there. And he didn’t know that I was there because he had headphones in his ears going through the trash looking for stuff.

Shane Grimes, Waste Management employee

Waste Management said it’s a problem that gets worse every year. As a result, they put in some safeguards to prevent people from getting dumped in the truck. First, drivers are trained to watch for people in and around the dumpsters

“The training we provide is pretty common sense stuff,” said Matt Moran, District Manager at Waste Management, “We ask the driver to look for something unusual when they drive up to a can…If something looks out of the ordinary, get out and check it out. And of course once we service the can, we ask them to pick them up, especially in cold mornings. Shake the can before you dump it out. Give it a minute and see if a head pops out. That has happened quite often.”

A Waste Management truck emptying a dumpster

Also, many of the trucks have cameras that allow the driver to see the trash being dumped and make sure there is no one inside. And Waste Management customers can opt to put a lock on the dumpster so that people can’t get inside. Even with all of these precautions, some people still slip through the cracks.

Shane Grimes, a driver at Waste Management, said he’s seen at least 12 people almost get crushed this year alone. And it’s not just the homeless population—it’s also dumpster divers.

“I’ve come close to dumping a guy and he was fortunate enough that he didn’t get in the truck. He got out of the can before I got it into the air and over into the truck,” said Grimes, “It’s definitely emotional when you think that you almost killed somebody. You know, when you didn’t even know they were there. And he didn’t know that I was there because he had headphones in his ears going through the trash looking for stuff.”

Shane Grimes, Waste Management employee

Waste Management has been passing out fliers to the homeless population to let them know not to go into the dumpsters for any reason. They also encourage people to let businesses know if they see someone getting into a dumpster so that they can take proper precautions.

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