More maids, fewer falls

More maids, fewer falls
SAFER: Some maid agencies here provide their maids with training on how to safely hang out clothes to dry.

Three years ago, there was a spate of reports about maids falling to their deaths while cleaning windows in high-rise flats. Since then, the number of such incidents has fallen significantly.

The improvement has come even as more maids are working here.  

A new law implemented by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in 2012 ensures that employers and maid agencies do their part in keeping maids safe when cleaning windows.

That year, 10 maids fell to their deaths while cleaning windows.

The stricter rules imposed by MOM prevent employers from allowing their maids to clean windows unless two conditions are met.

First, the employer or an adult representative of the employer must be present to supervise the maid.

And window grilles have to be installed and locked while the windows are being cleaned.

These rules apply to all homes, except for windows on the ground floor or along common corridors.

Failure to comply constitutes a breach of the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations.

Employers who fail to comply may be prosecuted and permanently barred from hiring a maid.

Statistics provided by MOM indicate that these measures have worked.

In each of the next two years, one maid fell to her death while cleaning windows.

Mr John Gee, 61, chair of the research sub-committee of Transient Workers Count Too, was glad fewer maids suffered fatal falls.

"A reduction in deaths from falls of this order is very welcome. It shows what can be achieved by sound, well-publicised measures," he said.

"The rules were seen as fully justified by most Singaporeans, which aided their implementation."

Mr Jolovan Wham, 35, executive director for the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) said: "Yes, it can be attributed to (the stricter regulations)." He said Home had played a role in lobbying the government to implement stricter rules.

TNP spoke to four local maid agencies, all of which are responding positively to the stricter regulations.

Mr Gabriel Ee, 29, director of Island Maids, which has branches in Ang Mo Kio and Bedok, said: "This is a good move that reiterates the dangers present to employers of FDWs (foreign domestic workers).


"Sometimes things happen beyond our control but if we educate them and increase awareness, it will reduce the risk of such things happening."

He added: "Many of them come from homes that are not high-rise so when they come here they are not aware of the dangers and they need to adapt."

Ms Anik Binti Sukigo Parto, 27, a maid from Indonesia, welcomed the additional safety enforcements.

She said: "I feel safer because cleaning windows can be quite dangerous, especially if it's quite high."

Ms Parto, who had worked as a maid in Saudi Arabia for four years before coming to Singapore about a year ago, was waiting to start a new employment contract.

Some employers, however, prefer not to let their maids clean their windows.

Ms Nant Aye Aye Myint, 31, a maid from Myanmmar, said: "I used to work in a ninth-storey flat in Ang Mo Kio. But I didn't clean the windows because my employers were afraid I (might) fall."

First-time maids in Singapore have to go through a mandatory one-day Settling-In Programme before they begin work.

Some maid agencies go beyond that and provide additional training programmes for their maids.

Nation Employment, which has branches in Woodlands, Jurong, Hougang, Toa Payoh, Yishun and Tampines, provides additional training in domestic skills such as cooking or window cleaning.

Its training manager, Mr Ng Di Hui, 28, said: "A lot of these FDWs don't pay attention to their safety because they're new to the environment here and they're not aware of the dangers.

"So we emphasise a lot on safety when we train them. Every skill, every job, the first thing we teach is safety."

The agency's managing director, Mr Gary Chin, 45, said: "Many agencies are doing their part and the stricter regulations, of course have helped, especially in raising awareness so all these factors play a role in reducing the number of such incidents."

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