Hong Kong and Philippine officials agreed on the need to ensure the occupational safety of domestic workers during a meeting to discuss a plan to bar them from cleaning the exterior of windows in high-rise buildings.
The officials, however, agreed that window cleaning should not be banned outright, news website hk01.com reports, citing sources from the Hong Kong Labour Department.
The meeting came after the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong told employment agencies that from Oct. 15 a new clause should be included in all employment contracts signed by Filipino domestic helpers stating that “for safety purposes, cleaning the exterior of windows is not part of the domestic helper’s duties”.
The move came after several domestic helpers fell to their death while performing the job, with the latest case involving a 35-year-old Filipina working in Tseung Kwan O in August.
In their meeting, officials from the Labour Department and the Philippine consulate agreed that employers should not impose on helpers the job of cleaning windows under unsafe working conditions or without safety equipment, or when the cleaning work is done off the ground.
They agreed to study whether Hong Kong can adopt rules and safety measures being implemented in other jurisdictions with regard to window cleaning, such as installing window bars and having someone supervise the work.
The Labour Department said both sides agreed that it is immoral to ask domestic helpers to clean windows without the proper safety protocols, Headline Daily reported.
The government promised to step up publicity and educational efforts to raise the awareness of both employers and domestic helpers on safe working practices and conditions.
Betty Yung Ma Shan-yee, director of the Employers of Domestic Helpers Hong Kong, said employers should never force domestic helpers to work in any condition that would compromise their health, safety or welfare, and that includes unsafe window cleaning.
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