In the Subordinate Courts today, Madam Gan Hui Leung, a 46-year-old Singaporean foreign domestic worker (FDW) employer, became the first to be convicted this year for failing to ensure the safety of her FDW who fell from height in Nov 2011 and subsequently died from her injuries. Gan was fined a maximum of $5,000. This is the first case involving a conviction of an FDW employer for safety lapses in 2012.
FDW’s Fatal Fall from Height
The Indonesian FDW, Siti Ustima, 25, was employed by Gan from 20 April 2010 to 11 November 2011. On the afternoon of 11 November 2011, Siti was cleaning the living room windows of Gan’s fifth storey flat in Clementi. Shortly after, there was a loud noise and she was found lying on the ground floor. Siti died from multiple injuries. A wooden chair, a red plastic pail and a cleaning spray were later found next to the living room windows of the flat.
Employer Disregarded FDW’s Personal Safety
Investigations revealed that during the employment of Siti Ustima, Gan did not demonstrate or give specific instructions to the FDW on how the windows should be cleaned. The employer assumed that Siti, who was transferred from another employer, would know how to do so.
Furthermore, Gan had seen Siti cleaning the bedroom and living room windows standing on a stool with the windows and the grilles wide open. Gan did not stop the FDW under such circumstances, nor did she ask the FDW to get off the stool immediately. Gan also did not provide her FDW with an extendable window wiper to clean hard-to-reach areas of the windows.
For failing to ensure the FDW performed her duties in a manner which does not endanger her life or personal safety, Gan has violated the Work Permit Conditions for the employment of FDWs, which is an offence under section 22(1)(a) of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Employers who infringe these conditions can be fined up to S$5,000 or face a jail term of up to six months or both. They will also be permanently barred from employing an FDW in future.
From 2007 to 2011, 24 FDWs have fallen to their deaths while at work. 14 employers were found to have breached the Work Permit conditions for endangering the lives of FDWs. Nine employers were prosecuted and fined up to $5,000, and were permanently barred from hiring FDWs. The remaining employers had their offences compounded. So far this year, there have been eight cases of fatal falls from FDWs while at work. Investigations are currently on-going for these cases.
FDW Safety Key Component of New Settling-In Programme
From 1 May 2012, all first-time FDWs will attend the one-day Settling-In Programme (SIP), conducted in the FDWs’ native languages or in English. The SIP aims to better orientate and equip FDWs with basic knowledge about living and working safely in Singapore. While first-time FDWs were already being taught safe work practices, there will be greater emphasis and time spent on the topic of safety in the one- day SIP.
MOM Strongly Urges Employers to Supervise FDWs Closely
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) urges employers to do their part in ensuring that their FDWs continue to practise the workplace safety tips taught in the SIP. Employers should refer to the FDW Employer Handy Guidebook to familiarise themselves with the safety dos and don’ts. In addition, they can e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if they have queries on FDW safety issues. Employers are also encouraged to sign up for MOM’s FDW employer newsletter INFOCUS at http://www.mom.gov.sg/contact-us/Pages/stay-connected.aspx to be regularly updated on useful information to help them supervise their FDWs on work safety.
An employer bears the ultimate responsibility of ensuring the well-being and safety of the FDW. This includes supervising her, especially when the FDW is new, to ensure that she practices workplace safety and is not put in situations which endanger her life.
Source information taken from https://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2012/employer-fined-5000-for-failing-to-ensure-safety-of-foreign-domestic-worker