Construction company fined $352,500 for housing foreign workers in overcrowded Sembawang quarters

Living space was cramped, and sleeping areas were also being used for drying of laundry and improper storage of food.
Living space was cramped, and sleeping areas were also being used for drying of laundry and improper storage of food.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER
Workers were living in 31 makeshift rooms constructed from zinc sheets and plywood, which did not meet fire safety regulations.
Workers were living in 31 makeshift rooms constructed from zinc sheets and plywood, which did not meet fire safety regulations.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER
The sanitation facilities at the quarters were also insufficient, with a lack of toilets and only one communal bath for more than 200 workers.
The sanitation facilities at the quarters were also insufficient, with a lack of toilets and only one communal bath for more than 200 workers.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

SINGAPORE - A construction company was fined $352,500 last Thursday (May 24) for housing its foreign workers in overcrowded living conditions at temporary quarters in Sembawang Crescent.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement on Tuesday that Keong Hong Construction was also found guilty of abetting 17 other employers in housing their foreign workers in the same quarters.

Keong Hong Construction pleaded guilty to a total of 47 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, with the remaining 160 taken into consideration during sentencing.

MOM said that it has also barred the company from employing foreign workers.

The Sembawang Crescent quarters was operated by the company and had an approved occupancy load of 182 foreign workers.

On March 8, 2017, MOM's housing inspectorate officer found 207 workers residing there during a check.

They found that the living conditions of the workers had compromised their safety and well-being.

Investigations revealed that the workers were living in 31 makeshift rooms constructed from zinc sheets and plywood, which did not meet fire safety regulations.

"The overcrowded conditions exacerbated the poor ventilation and inadequate lighting in the quarters," MOM said.

It added that the living space was cramped, and sleeping areas were also being used for drying of laundry and improper storage of food.

The sanitation facilities at the quarters were also insufficient, with a lack of toilets and only one communal bath for more than 200 workers.

Following the inspection, MOM ordered the company to rectify the poor living conditions at quarters and comply with the occupancy limit.

The remaining foreign workers were relocated to other approved accommodations.

Ms Jeanette Har, director of well-being at MOM's foreign manpower management division, said that while there has been an improvement in the foreign worker housing landscape, there are still employers and operators who show little regard for workers' safety and well-being.

Ms Har said that MOM will take stern action against those who do not meet their legal responsibilities towards their foreign workers.

Foreign workers who have issues with their housing conditions are advised to first bring the matter to the attention of their employers, MOM said.

And if their employers fail to make improvements to the living conditions, they should seek assistance from the Migrant Workers' Centre on 6536 2692 or report the matter to MOM on 6438 5122.

The public may also alert MOM to such cases.

MOM added that all information will be kept strictly confidential.