New Singapore rules to stop maids falling from windows

Singapore said Monday foreign maids must be supervised when cleaning windows following a rise in the number of fatal work-related falls from high-rise flats.

The Manpower Ministry said nine foreign domestic workers (FDWs) had fallen to their deaths so far in 2012, including five who were cleaning windows in an unsafe manner and another two who were hanging out laundry when they fell.

Last year there were only four cases of "heights fatalities" involving maids, the ministry said in a press statement.

"This tragic and unnecessary loss of lives could have been prevented if FDWs and FDW employers took safe work practices seriously," the ministry said as it launched new guidelines for employers.

"With immediate effect, employers of FDWs shall not allow their FDWs to clean the exterior of windows unless strict safety conditions are in place."

The ministry said grilles must be installed over windows and locked allowing maids to reach through and clean the glass safely if employers expected them to carry out the chore.

Over 80 percent of Singapore's 5.2 million population live in government-built high rise flats.

Employers who are caught flouting the rules will be permanently banned from hiring a maid, the ministry said.

It said it was also planning to double the maximum penalty for employers who fail to provide a safe working environment for maids to a fine of Sg$10,000 ($7,800) and a 12-month jail term.

Thousands of women, many of them from impoverished villages in Indonesia, the Philippines and India, work as domestic helpers in affluent Singapore.

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