More windows fall; checks stepped up
35 cases in first 5 months; authorities also raising window safety awareness
By: Miranda Yeo
THE authorities are stepping up checks after 35 cases of windows falling from height were reported from January to last month, with three incidents happening last Thursday alone.
The 35 cases are a sharp spike from the 20 cases in the same period in each of the past two years.
The greater enforcement has led to 14 home owners being fined this year, while seven are facing prosecution for windows that posed a falling hazard to passers-by.
If the cause is lack of maintenance, the offender may face a maximum fine of $10,000 and a jail term of up to one year.
A spokesman for the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said that while therehas been no death so far, the'consequence of a window falling on someone is grave, if notfatal'.
Seven injuries have been reported since 2006.
Apart from carrying out inspections at housing estates and commercial buildings where incidents have been reported, the BCA has also worked with the Housing Board to create awareness of window safety.
Four roving exhibitions featuring window maintenance tips have been held since last year.
Housing estates with more instances of falling windows tend to be older ones where casement windows were originally fitted with aluminium rivets.
A regulation passed in 2004 made it compulsory for these rivets - which are prone to corrosion - to be replaced by stainless steel ones.
The cost of each rivet, which is borne by the home owner, is 80 cents to $1, according to the HDB website.
The BCA sends letters to home owners - before conducting an inspection - to advise them to ensure that their windows comply with the safety guidelines.
Owners who fail to do so face a fine. Those who continue to ignore warnings in follow-up inspections will be prosecuted.
In addition, owners of homes with casement windows whose aluminium rivets have not been replaced may face a further penalty of $5,000 and a jail term of up to six months.
The BCA said 211 people have been fined and 51 prosecuted since 2006. But no one has been jailed yet.
Contractors advise home owners with casement windows to check for rusty or loose fasteners, as well as lubricate and clean movable parts.
If they use sliding windows, they should ensure that the safety stoppers on them are not damaged.
They should also clean window tracks so the panels can slide smoothly, and change worn-out stoppers.
Residents welcomed the intensified efforts by the BCA to ensure safety.
Civil servant Eleanor Lim has been extra cautious ever since a window came off while she was cleaning it.
Luckily, the 45-year-old, who lives on the 10th floor of an HDB flat in Tampines, managed to hold on to the window, before calling a contractor to fix the problem.
'It's a possible danger and I have since been careful to check that my windows are well maintained,' she said.
Another vigilant resident is housewife Irene Lau, who lives in a five-room unit in Hougang.
'I use my kitchen window a lot because I have to hang clothes outside.
'I had noticed that the screws on the window can come loose, so I now check them often,' she said.