Flirting with death? Woman perches on tiny stool five storeys high
From the kitchen window, it looked like someone in the unit directly facing her block had placed some clothes outside the window to dry.
But when domestic helper Nani Sulastri, 27, gave the same spot a second look, she gasped as the "clothes" started moving.
It turned out that a woman in her 30s was perched precariously on the parapet outside her fifth-storey flat at Bukit Purmei Road.
And this was not just some "ordinary" perch.
The woman was standing on a small blue stool - only slightly wider than a tissue paper box - which had been placed on the narrow parapet.
This incident happened on Tuesday at around 12.10pm, a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesman said.
Speaking to The New Paper on Thursday, Ms Nani said she was horrified by what she saw.
"It's so dangerous and I was very scared for her. I didn't even dare to think what would happen to her if she had fallen down," Miss Nani recounted.
She added that she has read in the news about maids falling while cleaning windows, but this was the first time she had seen something similar.
As a domestic helper herself, Miss Nani, an Indonesian, is well aware of the dangers of cleaning windows.
"We must be very careful (when cleaning windows). My employer told me that I cannot clean the windows when there's nobody at home," she said.
Miss Nani, who was then airing the laundry, said she alternated between completing her task and watching the woman's every move.
She added that the woman, dressed in a black top and white shorts, had first stood outside on the ledge and tried to wipe the windows.
When she could not reach the higher parts of the window, someone from the flat passed her a stool.
Ms Nani then watched in horror as the woman placed the stool on the ledge and tried to climb on top of it.
"She tried to balance it on the ledge, but the stool started shaking. It was still too low for her (to reach the higher parts of the window)," she said.
And the drama did not end there.
Ms Nani, who has been working here for four years, added that she saw two people, each grabbing one arm, trying to pull the woman back into the flat.
This lasted for about 15 minutes and according to Ms Nani, they failed to get the woman back into the house.
"Maybe she was too heavy," she said with a chuckle.
Within seven minutes of being alerted, SCDF officers arrived in an ambulance, a fire bike and two fire engines.
The rescue, which took less than 15 minutes, involved three officers securing the woman with rescue lines before hoisting her back into the flat.
By then, some onlookers had gathered in the carpark.
One of them was businessman Lim Y.K., who was horrified by the woman's actions.
"I'm appalled! With all the stories about maids falling to death, you would think one would take extra caution when cleaning windows," said the 40-year-old who lives in a neighbouring block. He happened to be in the vicinity when the incident happened.
Another domestic helper, who wanted to be known only as Rose, also saw the woman on the parapet.
"I don't know why she had to stand there to clean the windows. There are other safer ways," she said.
The 30-year-old added that she cleans areas that are hard to reach by attaching a piece of cloth onto the end of a pole.
When The New Paper visited the Bukit Purmei flat on Friday, the family declined comment.
The woman's husband told Lianhe Wanbao that his wife is particular about cleanliness and was trying to clean the exterior of the bedroom windows.
He had no idea his wife was stuck on the parapet as he was watching television with his parents in the living room, until he heard her cries for help.
He added that his wife only sustained abrasions on her arms from the incident.
"It's so dangerous. I was very scared for her. I didn't even dare to think what would happen to her if she had fallen down."
- Ms Nani Sulastri, recounting the incident
'It's not worth falling for clean windows'
With the right tools, you should be able to clean your windows without having to climb out of your house, cleaning companies said.
At The Window Cleaners, a window-cleaning company, the job is usually done from inside the flat.
Company boss Simon Recordon said: "We follow the guidelines recommended in the work at height safety courses. The workers wear harnesses and use safety lanyards when close to an open window, so there is a minimal chance of falling out.
"Safety is definitely the number one priority when doing our job as it's not worth falling out of a window just for it to be clean."
Adding that professional window-cleaning equipment is used, he said: "It is worth engaging a company to do the cleaning for you if you don't want to get yourself injured."
The equipment includes extendable poles that can be angled in different directions to reach awkward spots,
News reports have shown that foreign domestic workers are usually the ones trading their safety for cleaner windows.
In 2012, when the number of fatal falls among such workers peaked, the Manpower Ministry barred employers from letting their maids clean window exteriors unless under adult supervision and if window grilles are locked during the cleaning.
This excludes homes with windows that are at the ground level, or along the corridor.
Those who do not comply may be liable to a fine of not more than $10,000 and/or 12 months in jail. They may also be barred from hiring a maid permanently.
THEY THROW OUT CAUTION FOR CONVENIENCE
A little boy was seen sitting on the window ledge of a unit on the sixth storey of a Bendeemer condominium as his grandfather held his hand.
The grandfather later said that his four-year-old grandson had dropped his shoes on the window ledge and that he had lifted the boy over the ledge so that the latter could retrieve the shoes.
The incident passed without further drama.
Cabby Goh Ah Seng, 58, fell nine storeys to his death after retrieving his daughter's fallen shoe at their Choa Chu Kang Street 51 flat. His daughter had left her shoes to dry on metal racks outside the kitchen window of their three-room HDB flat. One shoe dropped from the ninth storey to their neighbour's parapet one storey down. Mr Goh slipped and fell while climbing back up from the parapet.
- SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS, LIANHE WANBAO FILE PHOTOS
His mother had locked her bedroom with the keys inside.
Mr Lim Chee Peng, 57, thought he could climb into the room from the outside of the flat, but he paid with his life when he slipped and fell from the third-storey flat at Bedok North Street 3.
Indonesian helper Siti Ustima fell to her death while cleaning the living-room windows of a fifth-storey flat.
In May 2012, her employer, Ms Gan Hui Leung, 46, was given the maximum fine of $5,000 for failing to ensure that Ms Siti had performed her duties in a way which did not endanger her safety or life.
Mr Lim Seng Choon fell seven storeys to his death after apparently climbing out onto a ledge to retrieve his $20 mobile phone earpiece,
The 37-year-old is believed to have slipped in the rain. He had dropped his Bluetooth device onto the 1m-wide parapet.
A maid who was hanging the laundry out to dry lost her balance and fell 11 storeys to her death from the kitchen window of a flat in Ang Mo Kio.
The investigation officer said in his report that 24-year-old Indonesian Isnaeni Gunartri is believed to have stretched out of the window to hang the pole when she lost her balance and fell.