Maid loses 5 fingers to electric mincer while 'working' in bakery owned by employer

Samuel Devaraj
The Straits Times
May 20, 2022

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

The maid allegedly suffered a finger injury while using an electric mincer but that did not stop bakery owner Mastura Abdul Khalil - two years later - to get another maid, Ms Rabiah Baharuddin Abdul, to work in the bakery.

While using the same mincer, Ms Rabiah suffered a more serious injury. All the fingers on the Indonesian's right hand had to be amputated.

On Friday (May 20), Mastura, 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 Ms Rabiah, 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.

Charges related to the domestic worker who got less severely injured in the accident which occurred on or before October 2017 were taken into consideration during sentencing. The incident was uncovered 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 92 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 about three to four times a week.

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

On June 6, 2019, Ms Rabiah reached the bakery at around noon. Her tasks for the day included opening about 144 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, telephoned their mother.

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

During surgery at the hospital, five fingers on Ms Rabiah's right hand were amputated.

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

Such electric mincers would generally 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 culpability on Mastura’s part was amplified as the incident involving Ms Rabiah was not her first offence, and that 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.

Another incident of a maid who lost her fingers

A 59-year-old stall operator was sentenced to two weeks' jail and fined $19,000 on Oct 8, 2021, after his daughter's domestic helper lost four fingers while she was using an electric meat grinder.

The Myanmar national never worked for the man's daughter but was instead asked to double as a kitchen assistant at the offender's food stall business and would work at the man's home for his business .

On Jan 31, 2019, the domestic worker was in the kitchen where she used a butter knife to push a food mixture into the opening of the grinder.

When the knife slipped, she tried to retrieve it by placing her right hand through the opening without turning the machine off.

Its blades severed four of her fingers and she was rushed to Singapore General Hospital.

The Straits Times

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