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Woman jailed after maid she employed illegally at bakery lost five fingers in workplace accident

A woman asked a domestic helper - hired by her husband to do household chores - to help out at her bakery.

The maid, Ms Rabiah Baharuddin Abdul, had an accident while using an electric mincer there and all five fingers of her right hand had to be amputated.

On Friday (May 20), Mastura Abdul Khalil, a 46-year-old Malaysian and Singapore permanent resident, was sentenced to four weeks' jail and fined $10,400 in court.

Her husband Affendi B Husain, 61, who employed the Indonesian maid, was fined $8,700.

The couple each pleaded guilty to a charge under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act over the illegal employment of Ms Rabiah.

Affendi also pleaded guilty to a charge under the Environmental Public Health (Food Hygiene) Regulations while Mastura pleaded guilty to two charges under the same regulations and another charge for failing to take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of Ms Rabiah at work.

A less serious injury had been suffered by another maid using the same machine two years earlier, and charges related to that accident were taken into consideration during sentencing. This had come to light during investigations into Ms Rabiah's accident.

Singapore Food Agency prosecuting officer Ng Zhao Ji said in court documents that Mastura was the sole proprietor of Mastura Bakery in Joo Chiat Road.

The business which sold snacks like curry puffs, banana fritters and fried green bean pastry opened in the middle of 2016, and the couple were both actively involved in running it.

Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecuting officers Mohd Rizal and Khong Zi Wei said in court documents that Ms Rabiah started working for Affendi on Oct 27, 2018.

Mastura told her in November that year to help with food preparation in the bakery.

From November 2018 till the date of the accident, in addition to her duties like cleaning, cooking and doing laundry, Ms Rabiah was required to go to the bakery three or four times a week.

She performed tasks like cutting onions, preparing sardines and frying fillings for curry puffs from about 11 am to 7 pm, while not getting any additional money.

On June 6, 2019, Ms Rabiah reached the bakery around noon. Her tasks for the day included opening sardine cans and processing the fish with the electric mincer.

She loaded the sardines into the machine with her right hand which was encased in a latex glove. She used a plunger with the other hand to push the sardines further into the mincer.

"After some time, the latex glove on her right hand became loose and was caught in the mincing component. Rabiah was unable to pull out her right hand, which resulted in her right hand being mangled by the electric mincer," said the MOM prosecutors.

Ms Rabiah felt a sudden pain, immediately turned off the power and shouted for help. Mastura's children, who were at the bakery, called their mother.

Mastura and Affendi, who were attending a funeral, arrived about half an hour later and called for an ambulance.

Ms Rabiah had surgery and her fingers had to be amputated.

Investigations revealed that she was taught to use the electric mincer only once, by an employee of the bakery, with sweet potatoes.

Such electric mincers usually come with a plastic hoop, said the MOM prosecutors, which serves as a guard to prevent the user's hands from reaching into the mincing component. There was no hoop on the mincer at the bakery.

Mastura also failed to conduct a risk assessment and develop safe procedures for using the mincer.

In delivering her verdict in court on Friday, District Judge Janet Wang said the level of culpability of Mastura was amplified as the incident involving Ms Rabiah was not her first offence, and she had shown blatant disregard by not taking steps to report the first incident or replace the guard.

There was also an exploitative element as the motivation to get Ms Rabiah to work in the bakery was to save on labour costs.

"The degree of permanent impairment is considerable," added the judge.

crimeSINGAPORE COURTSMinistry of ManpowerSFA/SINGAPORE FOOD AGENCY