Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

MOM’s Knee-Jerk Reaction Misses The Point

There has been nine fall from height deaths of foreign maids this year. Five were due to cleaning of exterior windows and two from hanging of laundry. It’s sad that lives are lost in such easily preventible accidents.

Now, our Ministry of Manpower (MOM) wants to make it mandatory for employers to supervise, or have an adult representative do so on their behalf, their maids when then clean the exterior of windows.

But, shockingly, while MOM thinks it necessary that window cleaning requires supervision, hanging out of laundry will be excluded from the new ruling. The reason? Hanging of laundry is presumably a daily chore, and hence impractical for employers to supervise.

You come up with a rule. Be seen to be taking action. Then, realize some aspects may have practical issues. So you exclude them.

Ordinarily, this seems like a sensible thing to do. Do something to tackle the bulk of the problem (five deaths from window cleaning). Hope for the best for the other lesser problem (two deaths from hanging laundry).

I thought laundry hanging could be even more dangerous than window cleaning because, well, the laundry pole could be very heavy, maids will need both hands to manipulate the pole, and thus increase the risk of losing their balance and falling over the window edge. However, the statistics say otherwise. People clean windows less often than hang out laundry, yet more deaths occur from window cleaning than hanging laundry.

But, that’s besides the point. We’re talking about human safety here. Human lives. Did MOM think these two deaths are acceptable risks? If MOM had thought adult supervision was necessary, then it must be necessary regardless of whether it is window cleaning or laundry hanging.

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