A senseless waste of life, all thanks to a window


Why, oh why?

I read with great sadness how yet another person has fallen to her death doing what to me is a senseless obsession – cleaning windows.

According to the Straits Times, a 64-year-old housewife and mother of two fell to her death from her HDB flat in Bishan on Tuesday. She had been standing on a chair and cleaning a window in her flat when she fell.

Residents found her body at the foot of Block 233 in Bishan Street 22. The police was alerted at 11am and paramedics who arrived on the scene pronounced her dead.

I cannot imagine how her family feels right now and my heart goes out to them.

But the thing is, she is not a lone incident. This has happened far too many times for it to be dismissed as a one-off.

In 2006 and 2010, 27 foreign maids have died from fatal falls while washing windows or another risky obsession -- hanging out bamboo poles of clothes.

Last year, an Indonesian maid fell seven storeys from a flat in Queenstown while hanging the laundry out of the window.

I ask myself again – why this senseless waste of life? It is something that can be so easily prevented, so why are people still forcing their maids to dangle out windows or doing it themselves?

At my house, I don’t even remember the last time we cleaned the windows of my 8th floor HDB unit. I do however remember the safe way of doing it, which is by reaching through the window grille to wipe the outside pane – with both feet still firmly on the ground. That’s how I, my brother or sister would do it.
The fact remains though is why should it matter so much.

Said Jolovan Wham, a representative from the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME): “In some situations for domestic workers, the employers are the ones who tell them to do it [wash windows from flat]. They may find it difficult to say no because of the balance of power between employers and workers.”

He said domestic workers who are new in Singapore would be inexperienced and more hesitant to contradict their employers. Said Wham: “Agencies teach domestic workers to be compliant, even when their employers ask them to do things which are risky. And they have debts to pay to the agencies, so they are afraid of having their debts increased if things don’t work out for their current employer.”

“You shouldn’t risk the life of someone else, so employers need to understand that asking their maids to clean windows out of a high-rise flat is wrong,” he added.