Singapore tightens rules on maids cleaning high windows

Singapore has tightened rules which determine how maids clean windows in high-rise flats following an increase in work-related deaths this year.

Maids are to be supervised while cleaning the outside of windows, the Ministry of Manpower said on Monday.

Nine maids have died as a result of "cleaning windows in an unsafe manner" this year compared to four last year, it said.

The maids were all from Indonesia, reports say. 

"This tragic and unnecessary loss of lives could have been prevented" if maids and their employers "took safe work practices seriously", the ministry said in a statement.

TOC thanks BBC News for the contribution, view full article on BBC News here.


MOM safety circular to all FDW employers on 4 June 2012 

  1. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has been deeply concerned about the recent spate of Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) work-related fatalities. Since January 2012, there have been nine work-related FDW fall from heights fatalities, compared to four cases for the whole of 2011 and eight in 2010. Our investigations show that five of the nine fatalities were related to FDWs cleaning windows in an unsafe manner. Two arose from hanging laundry, while the causes of the last two are pending further investigation.
  2. This tragic and unnecessary loss of lives could have been prevented if FDWs and FDW employers took safe work practices seriously. With immediate effect, employers of FDWs shall not allow their FDWs to clean the exterior of windows unless strict safety conditions are in place. MOM also urges anyone who cleans exterior windows to apply these same strict safety conditions. 

    Existing Measures

  3. MOM has already established extensive legislative, enforcement and education measures to address FDW work-related safety: 

    a. Legislation: The Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations (EFMR) requires employers to provide safe working conditions and ensure their FDWs perform their duties according to the safe work practices stipulated by MOM in its training course and safety materials. Employers who fail to do so can be prosecuted, and upon conviction be fined up to $5,000 and/ or jailed up to 6 months. 

    b. Enforcement: From 2007 to 2011, 14 employers were found to have endangered the lives of their FDWs. 9 employers were prosecuted and were permanently barred from hiring FDWs. On 3 May 2012, an employer was fined the maximum penalty of $5,000 for failing to ensure the safety of her FDW who fell while cleaning windows. 

    c. Education: First-time FDW employers and FDWs are educated on safe work practices through the online or classroom Employers’ Orientation Programme (EOP) as well as the 1-day Settling-In Programme (SIP) for new FDWs that started on 1 May 2012. 

    In the SIP, FDWs receive verbal and practical instruction in their native languages on how to perform household chores safely, especially cleaning windows and hanging laundry. They are also each given a handy guide and safety pamphlet (in English and their native language) with pictures of the safety Dos and Don’ts. 

    Under the new SIP, we have increased the emphasis and time spent on the safety messages. SIP trainers will note down their observations of each FDW during the practical component. If trainers observe that the new FDW is having difficulties doing certain household chores safely, these points will be shared with the FDWs’ employment agencies and their new employers. 

    Stakeholders Came Together To Deliberate on Solutions

  4. MOM engaged a variety of stakeholders to hear different perspectives of this issue, and invited them to co-develop effective solutions. Views from members of the public in letters to both the media and MOM, comments on online forums, MOM Facebook, and e-mails to MOM were taken into account. Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin’s blogposts on this issue generated a fruitful discussion on solutions to the problem. MOM also conducted a door-to-door survey among some 600 households to better understand window cleaning practices. In-depth, one-on-one interviews with FDWs as well as a townhall session were conducted with employers, members of public, employment agencies, trainers, and NGOs.  Read more