Training, reminders, communication needed to keep maids safe in high-rise homes, say agencies

A maid who had locked herself by mistake in a room in a fifth floor flat in Bukit Panjang tried to get out of the room by first crawling out of a window.
A maid who had locked herself by mistake in a room in a fifth floor flat in Bukit Panjang tried to get out of the room by first crawling out of a window.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM VIDEO/ANITA SAHARI

SINGAPORE - High-rise safety is one of the biggest concerns for maids in Singapore, and climbing out of windows is a "big no no", said director of Island Maids, Mr Gabriel Ee.

The 31-year-old was speaking to The Straits Times about the incident on Wednesday (Dec 6), where a maid was rescued after dangling from a fifth-floor corridor railing in Bukit Panjang Ring Road.

The 24-year-old is believed to have climbed out a window of a fifth-storey HDB unit in an attempt to get out of a room she had mistakenly locked herself into, and was trying to find a way back into the flat.

The maid's employer had earlier told The Straits Times that the domestic worker was from Myanmar, and had worked for another family for seven months before he hired her for about a month.

First-time maids in Singapore are required to attend a compulsory Settling-In Programme organised by the Ministry of Manpower before starting work.

Among various things, the programme teaches maids about safety precautions while hanging clothes or cleaning windows in high-rise buildings.

In addition to the Settling-In Programme, maid agencies such as Island Maids and Nation Employment said they also put helpers through additional training to supplement their safety awareness and knowledge.


Nation Employment director Lim Chee Chong, 39, said: "Many of them come from rural areas where buildings might, at most, be two or three storeys high. For new maids especially, we don't expect them to get used to this immediately, so we need to reinforce the safety aspect."

Said Mr Ee: "Because of the number of high-rise units here, helpers falling while hanging clothes or doing chores is a major concern. So there's quite a comprehensive programme on what they should and should not do."

He added that employers should also constantly remind their helpers to keep safety in mind while doing housework.

"In (the latest) case, she might have acted out of pressure and decided to put herself in danger. There can be constant reminders, but the individual also has to (take note and abide by them)," said Mr Ee.

Mr Lim said that besides reminders and adequate training, improving communication between maids and their employers will also help prevent such incidents.

"At the end of the day, it's about communication - maids are not robots, they can't be programmed to do what you want them to do. I encourage employers and maids to talk about their expectations.

"Safety lapses usually happen when one party takes the other for granted, so we encourage both parties to communicate."