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Three directors and their companies convicted for foreign workers housing offences linked to Geylang fire incident

  1. On 22 June 2018, three directors and their respective companies – Ong Lai Kar, Director of Essential Clean and Care Pte. Ltd., Ong Huay Chew, Director of Seng Foo Building Construction Pte. Ltd., and Koh Kok Seng, Director of Bestway Cleaning Servies Pte. Ltd. – were convicted under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (“EFMA”) for housing foreign workers in overcrowded private residential premises, which did not comply with the Urban Redeveloment Authority’s (“URA”) guidelines.
  2. The Court has imposed a fine amounting to a total of $153,000 on the accused parties. The Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) has also barred all convicted parties from employing foreign workers. Details of the charges and the breakdown of sentence outcomes are listed in the Annex.

    About the Case
  3. The three employers had housed their foreign workers at a shop house in Lorong 4 Geylang since August 2014.  A fire broke out in the early morning of 6 December 2014, resulting in the death of four workers, with several others injured. While the cause of the fire was electrical in origin, MOM’s investigations revealed that there were 22 foreign workers residing in the shop house, which exceeded URA’s then prevailing occupancy cap of eight persons1.
  4. Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, employers are required to provide accommodation that comply with the various statutory requirements for their foreign workers. MOM took prosecution action against the employers for housing the workers in overcrowded accommodation.
  5. MOM has also prosecuted Ong Lai Kar, for abetting the other two employers to house their foreign workers in the overcrowded shop house.
  6. MOM had earlier prosecuted six other individuals and five other companies in relation to this case for similarly housing their workers in accommodation that did not meet statutory requirements. All parties were fined a total of $102,000.

    Master Tenant and Property Owner Have Also Been Charged
  7. The relevant authorities have also taken prosecution action under the Planning Act and Fire Safety Act against the master tenant, property owner and other involved parties of the affected unit. Their cases are currently ongoing in Court. If convicted, the master tenant, property owner and other involved parties face a maximum fine of $200,000 under the Planning Act, and a fine of up to $200,000 or to imprisonment of up to two years or to both under the Fire Safety Act.
  8. Commenting on the case, Ms Jeanette Har, Director of Well-Being at MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division, said, “Lives have been lost. Employers are legally obliged to exercise a duty of care towards their workers, and this duty cannot be simply delegated to others. Employers who fail to ensure that their workers are housed in safe and proper accommodation that meets statutory requirements will be firmly taken to task.”

    Employers Must Provide Accommodation that Meets Statutory Requirements
  9. Since 2015, MOM, the SCDF and URA have conducted regular joint inspections and increased our enforcement presence on private residences housing foreign workers. Specifically, MOM conducted more than 3,000 housing inspections in the last two years, and imposed penalties on employers who have housed workers in accommodation that were in poor condition. 
  10. Employers who contravene any of the work pass conditions under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, will be guilty of an offence under Section 22(1)(a) of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA). Offenders can be fined up to $10,000 and/or imprisoned up to 12 months for each offence.
  11. Employers must ensure that the accommodation provided for their foreign workers is not overcrowded and in accordance with the applicable guidelines and statutory requirements. Employers should also remind foreign workers who source for their own accommodation, to inform employers promptly on any changes to their residential addresses, and to report any overcrowding or fire hazards to the authorities.

    Report Poor Foreign Worker Accommodation
  12. MOM urges foreign workers who have issues with their accommodation to first raise the matter to their employer. If their employers fail to make improvements to the living conditions, they should immediately seek advice and assistance from the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) at 6536 2692 or report the matter to MOM at 6438 5122. Members of the public who come across foreign workers living in overcrowded and poorly maintained accommodation can similarly report the matter to MWC or MOM.



  1. The occupancy cap for private residential properties was revised from eight to six unrelated occupants with effect from 15 May 2017.