Maid safety in Singapore: Maids spotted working in dangerously unsafe conditions!
Maid safety in Singapore under the scanner, "If they fall and die or hurt themselves it will be too late to help them."
3 Singapore maids were spotted working in dangerously unsafe conditions recently, and the case is now being investigated by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)
Maid safety in Singapore : Maids seen balancing on scaffolding
Apparently, for the past 2 months, these three maids have been working on the house's facade, balancing delicately on a temporary scaffolding with no safety precautions in place.
According to The Straits Times, they were sanding the walls of a two-storey Cluny Park house without helmets, workboots and protective gear.
It seems that the scaffolding was rented from a construction company and the tools were purchased by their employer. The employer revealed to The Straits Times that they were helping her clean the windows and facade, after they were dirtied by construction work that happened at a neighbouring house.
The maids however, declined to comment, and one admitted that she was afraid of losing her job.
A neighbour expressed concerns for the maids' safety and said she had seen the them work for long hours, "It is crazy, to see them doing this kind of work. If they fall and die or hurt themselves it will be too late to help them."
"I think we need to raise this issue and get them help."
Here is the video of the incident:
Maid safety in Singapore: MOM investigates
The ministry has informed that it will be investigating the employer concerned for possibly breaking of the law, as according to the work permit, maids are only allowed to perform household duties at their employers' residence.
MOM also stressed that employers should not assign work without regard for the safety of their maids, and those who are found guilty of violating the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to one year, or both.
There are several issues with making maids do such dangerous work:
- According to Associate Professor Goh Yang Miang of the National University of Singapore's Department of Building, a major safety flaw in this case is the lack of guardrails on the scaffold.
Also, the maids were seen using restraint belts instead of full-body harnesses. These restraint belts are not sufficient to prevent a fall. In case of a fall, the belt might slip off or even cause further injuries .
- Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of the Centre for Domestic Employees and assistant director-general of the National Trades Union Congress, opined that under no conditions must maids be treated like construction workers.
Unlike licensed and trained construction workers, maids are not protected from potential injury or death by any relevant employment and workplace injury acts.
He tells The Straits Times, "Should anything happen to these workers, they have no insurance or infrastructures in place to protect them."
Maid safety in Singapore: Rules and regulations
There have been many cases of maids tragically falling to deaths after being involved in unsafe acts like cleaning the exterior of windows without adequate safety precautions.
Since 2012, MOM has tightened the rules and regulations for maid safety in Singapore:
- Foreign maids here are not allowed to clean window exteriors unless enhanced and safe work conditions are in place:
1.The employer, or an adult representative, must be around to supervise the maid while she cleans the interior of the window.
2. Also, window grilles have to be installed and locked while the windows are being cleaned.
The rules apply to all homes, except for windows that are at the ground level or along common corridors.
- Many maids do not come from high-rise environments and may not be used to the urban living environment in Singapore. They are therefore likely to be unaware of the risks in a high-rise domestic setting.
For example, if maids are required to hang laundry outside the window using bamboo poles, employers should ensure their maids do not stand on an elevated platform or tip toe while handling the poles, and do not overload the pole with too many clothes.
- Employers should refer to the FDW Employer Handy Guidebook to familiarise themselves with the safety Dos and Don’ts.
In addition, they can refer to safety tips at MOM’s website at www.mom.gov.sg/statistics-publications/others/publications/Pages/workpass-fdw.aspx or email [email protected] if they have queries on maid safety issues.
- Failure to comply constitutes a breach of the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, which fall under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
Employers who fail to comply may be prosecuted and permanently barred from hiring a maid.
- Members of the public should notify MOM if they see maids working in unsafe conditions. They can call 6438 5122 or email [email protected] to seek help from MOM.