Shockingly dingy working conditions during sewer cleanup job highlight need for better migrant worker protections: HOME

At left, a soiled migrant worker in a hazmat suit and a clogged sewage pipe, at right. Photo: HOME/Facebook
At left, a soiled migrant worker in a hazmat suit and a clogged sewage pipe, at right. Photo: HOME/Facebook

A migrant worker support group today shed light on the shockingly unsanitary and unsafe working conditions some migrants face.

Just a day after the National Day holiday, when Singapore celebrated itself and its workers for their resilience through the pandemic, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) highlighted the need for better protections for migrant workers by showing the appalling conditions faced by those tasked with the dirty job of cleaning a choked sewage pipe.

“Workers must not be assigned work that they are ill-equipped for, especially in hazardous environments like confined spaces,” HOME wrote.

The Singapore-based charity said the photos were shared by a migrant worker who had to crawl into the narrow pipe way and single-handedly clear trash that was blocking the entries.

The worker said he and his colleagues did not receive adequate training or mechanical equipment.   

The photos showed plastic bags filled with rubbish piled up in the murky waters and the worker wearing a gas mask and a hazmat suit soiled from the torso down.

HOME said that such dangerous conditions are unacceptable for any kind of worker.

“Such practices will risk workplace injuries, occupational diseases and fatalities. All workers deserve a safe and healthy working environment,” it wrote.

Although Singapore does not divulge the nationality of workers in their breakdowns of workplace injury statistics, multiple studies have shown a higher prevalence rate for injuries among migrant workers, who often take on jobs in dangerous industries such as construction and face numerous restrictions due to their immigration status.

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