Netizens question the need for domestic workers to clean exterior of windows after Indonesian helper fell to death at Hougang block

Netizens question the need for domestic workers to clean exterior of windows after Indonesian helper fell to death at Hougang block

An Indonesian national who was working as a domestic helper to a physically challenged elderly woman was found lying at the foot of a block of flats near Hougang MRT station on Monday (29 March).

According to the police, they received a call for assistance at Block 464 Upper Serangoon Road at 4.53 pm.

Upon arrival, the 26-year-old woman was found unconscious on the ground and was taken to Sengkang General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Mothership reported that the deceased, named Pipit, fell from the sixth storey of the HDB block.

The police are investigating the case.

A neighbour living on the same floor, who declined to be named, said that the Indonesian domestic helper was employed by an elderly woman who is often seen in a wheelchair, The Straits Times (ST) reported.

The neighbour also said that the deceased had spoken about her two children.

Chinese evening newspaper Shin Min Daily reported that the elderly employer’s children hired the Indonesian woman about six months ago to take care of their mother.

The senior lady, who only wanted to be known as Madam Chen, said that she heard the deceased crying out for help twice on the day of the tragedy.

However, by the time Madam Chen reached the kitchen with her walking stick, the woman was nowhere to be seen. She cannot be found in the storeroom or toilet either.

Madam Chen’s children told the Chinese newspaper that they will get in touch with the helper’s agency to settle her funeral arrangements, as well as the embassy to get her body flown back to her home country.

Domestic worker was feeling dizzy

Another domestic helper from Indonesia told Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao that she got a text message from Pipit telling that she felt dizzy and had a headache at 4.41pm on Monday.

Speaking to reporters in tears, she told Lianhe Wanbao that she did not read the messages and found out about the tragedy only after seeing the police downstairs.

ST reported that the window in the flat was open and Pipit might have fallen out while cleaning it.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced in June 2012 that employers of foreign domestic helpers cannot ask them to clean the exterior of windows without having strict safety conditions in place.

Among the conditions are that an employer or adult representative must be present to supervise the domestic helper while the cleaning process is happening.

If that’s not all, window grilles must be installed and locked at all times while the cleaning is carried out.

Employers who fail to ensure that safe working conditions are met can be fined up to S$5000 and jailed for up to six months.

MOM made this announcement following the deaths of five migrant domestic workers between January and June 2012. It was found that these workers died after cleaning windows in an unsafe manner.

Netizens question need for migrant domestic workers to clean the exterior of windows in HDB flats

On ST and Mothership‘s Facebook posts on the issue, netizens were quick to question the need for migrant domestic workers to clean the exterior of HDB flat windows.

“It is simply not worth the risk, and as an employer, it is only right that we protect our employees,” one commenter said, adding that MOM should implement a written law that prohibits such dangerous cleaning activities.

Many of them noted that they don’t even bother cleaning the windows as it makes no sense to do so, given that the window is exposed to the weather all year long anyway.

One user pointed out that some employers will ask their helper to clean the exterior of the window without any safety measures, even though such is not permitted in the helper’s employment contract.

However, a number of online users expressed that sometimes it is the domestic helpers themselves who insist on cleaning the exterior of the windows, even when their employers ask them not to do so.

Others said that the cleaning of windows in high rise buildings should only be done by professionals and not untrained migrant domestic workers.

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