Toilet bans for construction workers common

Many Facebook users were furious when a photo of this sign at the new Marina One centre went viral on the social media site.
Many Facebook users were furious when a photo of this sign at the new Marina One centre went viral on the social media site.PHOTO: FACEBOOK

Signs worded in a direct manner to avoid being misunderstood: Construction firms

Shopping malls should use appropriate language in signs aimed at foreign workers, industry players say - even if the language appears harsh.

Earlier this month, many Facebook users were furious when a photo of a sign at a toilet at the new Marina One centre went viral on the social media site. They felt the sign was discriminatory.

It read: "Contractors and workers are not allowed to use this toilet. A penalty of $107.00 (incl. of GST) will be imposed..."

But construction firms say notices barring workers from using certain mall toilets and threatening fines for unauthorised use are commonplace in the industry, usually to prevent dirty footprints in the bathrooms.

Construction and project manager Ong Khoon Keat, 49, who has been in the industry for 25 years, said if the signs were more politely worded, they would run the risk of being misunderstood.

"Most workers employed by construction industries do not have a high proficiency in English," he said. "Politically correct signs would create more confusion instead of clarifying the 'rules'."

Construction firm director Bernard Wong, 53, thinks that while the straightforward language may come across as rude to some, it gets the message across better.

"It's better to be direct about it instead of letting workers misunderstand and then get punished for making the toilets dirty."

But others took issue with the threat of a fine.

Mr Ong said such signs are common, but added that he has not seen or heard of a fine being imposed on a worker.

"It's more of a deterrent," he said. "Construction workers' work environments are unclean and they are likely to leave dirty footprints on toilet floors. Members of the public will complain."

He urged the public to consider the plight of cleaners who clean the mall toilets.

Two years ago, Wisma Atria came under fire for putting up signs outside its male toilets instructing workers to use only the toilet at the fifth-floor carpark. The sign said those who disregarded the warning would be fined and "immediately banned" from working in the mall.

In 2012, similar signs were found on the doors of toilets in Balmoral Plaza and Marina Square.

A spokesman for AsiaMalls, which operates six heartland malls, told The Straits Times it sets designated washrooms for workers' use, but draws the line at imposing fines.

Similarly, a spokesman for the Singapore Contractors Association said contractors generally allocate separate toilets for workers to keep certain premises secure.

However, she added: "The workers are usually informed about which toilets to use. It's better to educate them than to impose a fine."

Mr Zakir Hossain, 39, a construction worker who has been in the industry for 15 years, said the threat of a fine is worrying.

"Whether it is polite or not, it doesn't matter. The problem is they are saying that we have to pay money," he added.

A spokesman for Transient Workers Count Too, an organisation that helps migrant workers, said signs and fines that target workers promote segregation and reinforce the idea that workers should remain as invisible as possible when they are not of service.

"If the issue is a fear of the toilets getting dirty with muddy boots, a simple sign stating 'No dirty boots in the toilet, please' would suffice."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2018, with the headline 'Toilet bans for construction workers common'. Print Edition | Subscribe