On 19th April, an Indonesian maid fell to her death from a the fifth floor of a HDB flat in Punggol. She was believed to have fallen while cleaning the windows. This tragic incident marked the seventh death so far in just four months. Her employer was quoted as saying that she did not notice anything unusual about the maid and had stressed to the maid the importance of safety when cleaning windows.
This last incident has triggered something of a public outcry, especially among members of the civil society. The Singapore based Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) is calling for a complete ban on maids cleaning the outside of windows. HOME is aiming to collect 300 individually written letters and send them to the Ministry of Manpower. HOME President Bridget Tan told reporters that the letters were meant to show that the group was “serious about solving the problem”.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Madam Halimah Yacob, called for employers to stop their domestic workers from opening window grilles.
Only Indonesian maids?
Bridget Tan noted that all the seven who passed away this year were Indonesians and added that maids from Indonesia tend to be quieter and more timid than others. Ristanti Ningrum, an Indonesian maid, said that a friend of hers did not dare to let her employer know about her fear of heights, despite being expected to clean the outside of windows on the 15th storey.
Ningrum commented that it was easier to communicate with younger employers, but older ones did not tolerate disagreement and expected instructions to be followed.
While maid agencies laud HOME’s initiative as a step in the right direction, some Singaporeans doubted the effectiveness of the ban.
Alvin Tan, a senior vice-president in an oil and gas company said that if the maids were banned, “someone still has got to do the job, and the employer will then also be at risk of falling”. He then called for a “proper equipment” to enhance safety.
Benny Liew, a maid agency director, said that it was difficult to pin the blame on anyone. He said that “Often, the helpers are the ones who initiate it without the instructions of the employers”.
On the web, netizens responded by calling for more safety measures for maids doing this dangerous job.
They cook your dinners, wash your cars and change your bed sheets. These maids take responsibility for areas of our lives that we simply are too lazy or have no time to look after. The danger faced by maids is one that is unique to the Singaporean plan of high-rise housing. As evidenced by the number of unfortunate deaths this year alone, Singaporeans need to plan a course of action.
Should there be a total ban on cleaning the exterior of windows?
Should equipment be developed to ensure safer cleaning?
Should the issue be left as it is, in the hands of employers?
Some sentiments from The Asian Parent’s Facebook page:
Sheralyn Kuah: When tc or hdb steps in to wstch the windows at least once a month, then the maids shall be spare from cleaning the windows.
Syed Riza: Cannot always rely training centre to teach the maid. Sometimes employer also must regularly remind maids the donts. Most maids I know are very gullible and have different level of common sense which couldn’t even measure up with our children..
Irene Ho: Not maid do then employer got to do it? Maid just go on leave? Do everything with care and safety in mind. Maid agency should teach maid the right way to clean the window. They can use a long pole with the wiper attached when cleaning window.
Amy Lee: Car accidents also happen every time, can we ban vehicles and ban driving and all walk? Why not we ban construction workers from building tall rise buildings cause its dangerous for the construction workers.Everything also want to ban. Getting more and more ridiculous. Its a self conscious and common sense for a human regardless of which country to be careful when on high grounds. We can remind but it up to own individual to be responsible of your own life.
Ashraf Hamid: Let the nature do its job from outside and human do it inside, simple solution!!!
Saiful Bahri: Cleaning of window can be done with supervision of employer.If not employer should be held responsible.Fair for me.
Fanny Soh: last time i have one maid and she is w me for e pass five yrs. I have been telling her not to open e window grill when cleaning the window and is ok that outside e window to have the dust, and every yr i will tell her e same answer but no use at all she still open e window grill and worst of all she use e ladder to clean it. I am so scared of her, anything happen to her i will be got all e blame, finally last yr we have terminate her already.
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