Wednesday, March 10, 2010

4 Migrant Workers Burnt to death ...."heard the men screaming for help and then go silent.."

Many workers, especially migrant workers are asked to stay at the workplaces, sometimes on top of factories,etc. The problem is that these places are normally fire hazards, and are not safe for human occupation. 

There need to be new laws that set minimum standards for worker housing/dwelling - that will ensure that these places are safe for the workers. There must be standards to ensure that these premises are not a fire hazard, and that there are adequate fire doors, emergency exits, etc. The law must also provide for maximum number of workers that can be housed within a particular area. They may be migrant workers, and there is no justification for overcrowding (to the extend that when they sleep there is no walking space). Besides being a fire risk, it is also a health risk when people are forced to stay in cramped inhumane conditions.

4 workers...migrant workers from India were just burnt to death in a saree shop where they were staying. Was there even fire exits, fire extinguishers...? Were they locked in by their employers? Thorough investigation need to be done. 

MASAI: Two Indian nationals, who had just arrived here two days ago to start work as salesmen, were burnt to death with two others during a fire that razed five double-storey shoplots in Masai here.

All four, believed to be in their 20s, have yet to be identified as they were badly charred during the 2.30am fire.

Eyewitnesses said that they heard the men screaming for help and then go silent. The high flames prevented them from going to the victims’ rescue.

Police have not ruled out arson as can of petrol was found at the scene.

Johor Fire and Rescue Department deputy director Sukor Sani Hashim said that investigations showed that the row of shops had been doused with petrol.

“We believe that the petrol was poured at the entrances of all the five shop lots, he said adding that the fire had started from the textile shop where the victims had been sleeping.

The body of the first victim was found at the ground floor of the building, the second at the stairway and the other two were still at the top floor, he said.

He explained that the fire had also spread very fast as the building had wooden flooring and was filled with flammable material.

Sukor said it took 20 firemen and two fire engines about 10 minutes to control the blaze but it was wholly put out only an hour later.

Those with information on the fire can call the police hotline at 07-2212999.- Star, 10/3/2010, 4 Indian nationals burn to death in saree shop (Update)

There is also a need to review the Workers Compensation Act to increase the amount paid out to death. Now, it is a mere RM18,000-00

...(a) where death has resulted from the injury, a lump sum equal to sixty months' earnings or eighteen thousand ringgit, whichever is the less:

Provided that if the deceased workman did not leave any dependants, the lump sum shall be the actual amount of the expenses of the funeral of the workman or one thousand ringgit whichever is the less; - Workmens Compensation Act, 1952.
By virtue of the WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION (FOREIGN WORKERS' COMPENSATION SCHEME) (INSURANCE) ORDER 1998, this sum is increased by a mere RM2,000
(a) a sum of two thousand ringgit in the event of death of a workman from personal injury sustained in an accident which arises out of and in the course of his employment;

(b) where the personal injury is sustained in an accident which occurs outside the working hours of a workman -
(i) a sum of twenty thousand ringgit in the event of death or permanent total disablement; and
(ii) a sum of money equivalent to the amount of compensation awarded under section 8 of the Act for, and in the event of, permanent partial disablement or temporary disablement; and
(c) a sum of four thousand eight hundred ringgit or the actual expenses incurred in repatriating a workman to his country of origin in the event of his death or permanent total disablement, whichever is the lesser. - Clause 4, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION (FOREIGN WORKERS' COMPENSATION SCHEME) (INSURANCE) ORDER 1998

Let's not forget that the Social Secutity Act (SOCSO) and the Workmen's Compensation Act are really meant to protect employers, by limiting their liabilities. All employers need to do is to pay the required monthly payment/subscription and when there is an accident SOCSO and/or Workmen's Compensation (or the Insurer) pays the money.

Life is valued at RM20,000. For permanent disability, which means the worker will not be able to work for the rest of his life, the sum is also a miserable RM23,000. How long can these worker survive. Under workmen's compensation, it is just a one off payment. SOCSO, that applies for local workers provides pension benefits at least.

The law need to be amended, and the sum should be increased. In the case of death or personal disability, further there must be a requirement that the employer pays basic monthly wages for the remaining contract period. This would really help families and the permanently disabled workers to at least settle the debts/losses they incurred in coming to Malaysia to work.

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