Employer fined $5,000 for maid's fatal fall

For failing to ensure the safety of her foreign domestic worker (FDW), a maid employer was on Thursday fined a maximum $5,000, said the Ministry of Manpower.

Gan Hui Leung, 46, became the first person to be convicted this year for failing to ensure the safety of her Indonesian maid Siti Ustima, who fell from the living room windows of Gan’s flat last November and subsequently died from her injuries.

Ustima, 25, had been cleaning the windows of Gan's fifth-floor flat when the incident happened. A wooden chair, a red plastic pail and a cleaning spray were later found next to the living room windows of the flat.

Investigations revealed that during the employment of Ustima, Gan did not demonstrate or give specific instructions to her on how windows should be cleaned. The employer assumed that the maid, who was transferred from another employer, would know how to do so.

Furthermore, Gan had seen her cleaning the bedroom and living room windows standing on a stool with the windows and the grilles wide open, and did not stop her.  Gan also did not provide her maid with an extendable window wiper to clean hard-to-reach areas of the windows.

From 2007 to 2011, 24 FDWs have fallen to their deaths while at work and 14 employers were taken to task for breaching the Work Permit conditions and endangering the lives of their workers.

Of the 24, nine were prosecuted and fined up to $5,000, and were permanently barred from hiring FDWs. So far this year, there have been eight cases of maids falling to their death at work and investigation are currently on-going for these cases.

The recent spate of deaths prompted the Indonesian Government to enact a rule recently, prohibiting new Indonesian maids from cleaning out-facing windows or hang laundry outside high-rise homes.

The new rule kicked in on 1 May and will be part of a contract new FDWs and their employers have to sign before they can work in Singapore.

Weighing in on the issue on Thursday, Bridget Tan, founder of migrant workers welfare group, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) told Yahoo! Singapore that "the fine cannot bring back life” and could act only “as a deterrent”.

"The best thing to do is to band window cleaning on high rise, window exterior and also hanging laundry on bamboo sticks," Tan added.

53-year-old Maggie Pay who is the employer of an Indonesian maid concurred.

"There's actually no need to clean windows because it rains frequently and if they really have to, their employers should provide them with long window wipers so these maids don't have to stand dangerously on window ledges," Pay said.