A day after the Hong Kong government released new rules to prevent accidents involving domestic helpers cleaning high-rise windows, a resident of Mei Foo Sun Chuen, a large housing estate in Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon, witnessed a hair-raising scene as she was looking out of the window.
At around 4 p.m. on Thursday, Mrs. Ho saw a maid climb out of the window of a neighbor’s apartment and squat on the ledge with her slippers on, Apple Daily reports.
At first she thought the maid was going to commit suicide, but then she realized, after looking at the action for a few more harrowing seconds, that the woman was cleaning the flower pots on the ledge.
The flat was on the 12th floor.
Mrs. Ho breathed a sigh of relief when the maid returned to the flat after about 10 minutes.
She said the maid’s action was “dangerous and unacceptable”. Who does she think she is: Spider Woman?
The maid should give paramount consideration to her safety, more than to her duties and responsibilities as a domestic helper, she said.
For that reason, Mrs. Ho welcomed the proposed amendments to the employment contract of foreign domestic helpers in relation to the cleaning of high-rise windows.
The new terms include the following: the windows to be cleaned must have bars, an adult must be present while the maid is cleaning the exterior of windows, and no part of the cleaner’s body except the arms must be outside the window while it is being cleaned, Ming Pao Daily reported.
There has been no lack of media reports of accidental deaths resulting from maids cleaning windows of high-rise buildings, but still many maids continue to climb out of the window and expose themselves to danger to obey their employers’ orders.
Thus, domestic work has become a life-threatening job as evidenced by a string of fatal accidents such as the one that occurred in August in which a 35-year-old Filipino maid who was cleaning windows lost her footing and fell from height in Tseung Kwan O, Apple Daily said.
Due to such accidents, the Philippines had sought to ban its maids from cleaning the exterior of windows in high-rise buildings by including a relevant clause in their employment contract that prohibits them from performing such a dangerous task.
That was followed by a street protest staged by hundreds of foreign domestic helpers seeking a ban on dangerous household work.
Hong Kong’s Labour Department then met with relevant parties to discuss and resolve the issue, resulting in the new guidelines on window-cleaning.
Unions representing the domestic helpers welcomed the new measures, but also voiced concerns that maids under existing contracts remain unprotected as the new rules are not retroactive.
– Contact us at [email protected]