The manufacturer of clothing donation bins used by charities across Canada said Tuesday it has stopped producing the metal containers, which were involved in at least two recent deaths, while it works on coming up with safer designs.
RangeView Fabricating, a Toronto-area company that produces bins used by prominent charities such as Diabetes Canada and B’nai Brith, said it is now focused on modifying the existing containers to improve safety.
Manager Brandon Agro said that charities had not experienced problems with the bins for most of the 25 years Rangeview has been providing them. But with at least eight documented deaths in Canada since 2015, including the death of a woman in Toronto on Tuesday morning, Agro said the time had come for immediate action.
That action, involving modifications to current designs and an active search for new ones, may require charities to sacrifice some anti-theft measures and focus on protecting vulnerable populations, Agro said.
“We’re kind of saying to our charities, ‘you’re going to have to deal with the theft because public safety is number one,’” Agro said in a telephone interview. “If someone is going to go into your bin and take your product, that’s going to have to be how it is for now.”
Agro said the bins most commonly involved in deaths are mailbox-style designs with an internal flap preventing people from reaching inside.
He said the designs feature metal bars that create a “pinch point” when activated, often by people trying to get into the boxes.
Agro said Rangeview is advising charities to remove those bars for the time being until safer designs can be developed and built. While those bars do not exist on all styles of donation box, Agro said the company is focused on improving safety in all styles it produces.
He said mailbox-style bins were involved in two deaths that took place in as many weeks.
On Dec. 30, a 34-year-old man in West Vancouver died after becoming stuck inside a box manufactured by RangeView. His death prompted the municipality to seal donation bins and investigate safer options.
Tuesday’s death in Toronto played out in similar fashion, according to city Police Const. Genifferjit Sidhu.
She said officers were called to a downtown Toronto donation bin shortly after 1:30 a.m. when someone reported seeing a woman partially stuck inside the bin, also made by Rangeview.
Sidhu said fire services cut through the box in order to extract her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene. Sidhu said such deaths are especially horrific.
“Part of you gets stuck in there, say it be your neck or a fragile part of you,” she said. “That would be painful, and it would not be quick.”
Advocates for the homeless have been sounding alarms about the bins, going so far as to call them “death traps” for a vulnerable population.
Jeremy Hunka of Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver said homeless people often turn to the bins for clothing items or shelter without being aware of how dangerous they can be.
In addition to the five deaths in B.C, a 32-year-old man was discovered dead inside a donation box in Cambridge, Ont., last November and a man in his 20s died in a similar container in Calgary in July 2017.
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press