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Do you suffer from one or more of the following symptoms when you are at work: headaches, lethargy, coughing, sneezing, itchy skin, throat, eyes and nose, skin rashes, increased frequency of sinus and asthma attacks? Do you experience these symptoms only at work? Do they disappear after leaving the building? Then the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in your workplace may be causing you to be sick.

On average people spend about 90% of their time indoors. International studies have found that indoor air pollutantsare generally two to five times greater than outdoor pollution levels. 

You are more likely to get sick from pollution in your home and office than from pollution in the air outside.  In fact the American College of Allergists has found that 50% of all illnesses are caused by indoor air pollution.  

This article focuses on some common IAQ Questions and Answers.

What is Indoor Air Quality?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines IAQ as the temperature, humidity, ventilation and chemical or biological contaminants of the air inside a building. IAQ refers to the quality of the air inside buildings as represented by concentrations of pollutants and thermal (temperature and relative humidity) conditions that affect the health, comfort and performance of occupants. The growing proliferation of chemical pollutants in consumer and commercial products, the tendency toward tighter building envelopes and reduced ventilation to save energy, and pressures to defer maintenance and other building services to reduce costs may foster IAQ problems.

How do you know if the indoor air quality in your workplace is poor?

Poor indoor air quality in buildings is usually characterized by complaints by 20% or more of occupants of various symptoms that occur for more than two (2) weeks, and who experience rapid relief after leaving the building. 

What are the causes of poor indoor air quality?     

Poor indoor air quality can be caused by numerous factors some of which are:

  • Poor ventilation due to improper airflow and continuous re-circulation of the indoor air. This is usually evidenced by the feeling of sleepiness and lethargy particularly in the afternoon and usually occurs in buildings with split air-conditioning units only.     
  • Lack of adequate air filtration of the circulated air. This is usually evidenced by materials coming through supply vents in offices and is caused by the absence of air filters on air-conditioning equipment.
  • Poorly maintained air-conditioning systems are frequent sources of biological substances that can be inhaled, leading to breathing problems.  Such systems are usually evidenced by water collecting on ceiling tiles due to condensation on the ducting, water collecting in drain pans, dirty air filters and the occurrence of a musty odor.  Mold growth may be occurring if the ceiling tile turns black. White growth on furniture may also be mold particularly if there is a temperature and relative humidity problem in a building.  
  • The improper use of cleaning chemicals, freshly painted walls, new furniture and activities such as construction works can also lead to indoor air quality problems. 

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What symptoms are often linked to poor indoor air quality?

It is common for most people to report one or more following health issues:

  • Dryness and irritation of eyes, nose, throat and skin
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hypersensitivity and allergies
  • Sinus congestion
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

What can be done to improve the indoor air quality in office buildings?

Attendance to the challenges of IAQ should be done on a systematic basis. Too often ad hoc responses are the order of the day. By introducing outdoor air into buildings, specifically, air that is properly filtered and cooled before it is mixed with circulated air this can improve conditions. For places like Port of Spain, a closing mechanism should be installed on outdoor air intakes which prevent smoke and odors from fires, from entering the building.

Companies can also try the installation of air filters with a Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) of eight on air conditioning unit’s results in proper filtration which can remove many contaminants that can cause people to become sick.

Lastly, do not conduct vapor/gas and dust releasing activities such as painting, duct-cleaning, sanding etc. when buildings are occupied. These activities should be done when the building is vacant to allow the entire premises to be properly ventilated afterwards.

What should you do if you think the indoor air quality in your building is poor?

Persons who suspect their building has poor IAQ can start by following the above steps.  Additional measures include ventilating the building by opening windows and doors once the building is located away from major vehicular traffic and any other potential gas and dust releasing activity and conducting an indoor air quality assessment. IAQ assessments should be conducted once every year as part of an annual risk assessment or when major changes to the buildings layout and processes occur. 

 

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Why should I conduct an indoor air quality Assessment?

Understanding and controlling common indoor pollutants can help reduce your risk of indoor health concerns. Air sampling can help with this by determining the quality of the indoor air through monitoring for a range of pollutants and comparing them to acceptable limits set by reputable organizations.  An indoor air quality assessment predominantly includes testing for gases, dust and mold.  

 

Why should I use CARIRI’s IAQ services?

CARIRI has positioned itself as a premier technology Institute based on service quality. Quality is a hallmark of the services provided to clients in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and extra regional markets. As part of its commitment to providing the highest quality services, CARIRI has established several quality management systems that work together to maintain the Institute’s overall high quality standards such as:

ISO 9001:2008

In1999,CARIRI received ISO 9001 Certification and became the first laboratory- based Institute in the region to be ISO Certified.  The Registrar for CARIRI’s ISO 9001 Certification is Société Généralede Surveillance – International Certification Services(SGS.ICS). Each year surveillance visits areconducted as part of the certification programme.

ISO 17025:2005

In 1998,the Institute’s laboratories received international accreditation under the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and became the first laboratory in the region to receive such a ccreditation. Three years later, in 2001, the Institute received ISO17025 Certification. This was a major achievement, being the first organization outside of Europe to receive such certification. CARIRI has changed  its  ISO  17025  Certification body to the International Accreditation Service(IAS)of the United States.

Along with our other quality certifications, CARIRI is also STOW certified.

CARIRI also has a multi-disciplinary team with extensive experience and a wide range of skills to meet the needs of the client. The team is headed by an Environmental Specialist who is supported by a cadre of professional and technical staff that are Council-Certified Environmental Consultants accredited by the American Council of Accredited Certification (ACAC) and the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB) which is the most prestigious certification specific to Indoor Air Quality.

Some of the services offered by CARIRI in the area of Indoor Air Quality include but are not limited to:

  • IAQ Testing & assessments
  • Ventilation systems inspections
  • Microbial IAQ testing
  • Noise surveys
  • Occupational health risk assessment
  • Sick building syndrome surveys

Contact CARIRI’s AQMS department today to help you “Clear the Air.”

Air Quality Management Services (AQMS)
Trincity West Industrial Estate,
Macoya,
Tel: (868) 285-5050 ext. 3300
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Information and Communication Technology has become a staple in all aspects of life over the last decade. Its use has fundamentally impacted how we carry out our day to day activities and it is critical for the transformation and development of a society. However, one of the areas that can have the greatest impact on future generations is the application of ICT in Education.

According to UNESCO, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can contribute to universal access to education, equity in education, the delivery of quality learning and teaching, teachers’ professional development and more efficient education management, governance and administration.

Research done worldwide suggest that ICT in education can lead to improved student learning and overall better teaching methods.

ICTs constitute one essential component of enriching traditional educational institutions, educational delivery systems, and instructional materials. In this sense, ICT contributes to the whole system of knowledge dispersal and effective learning. The integration of ICT methods with traditional teaching has been proven to have a significant and positive impact on student achievement, especially in the categories of Knowledge and Comprehension, Practical Skills and Presentation skills in subject areas such as Mathematics and the Sciences.

The advantages of ICT in education are abundant. Images and videos can be utilized easily in teaching which improves the retentive memory of the students. Teachers and instructors can easily explain complex instruction and ensure students’ comprehension of certain topics. Teachers are also able to create interactive classes and make the classes more enjoyable which would improve student attendance and concentration. Employers would benefit by having a portion of the population already computer literate. This leads to the increase in productivity. Students would also have the ability to access learning and course materials anywhere and anytime.  

Although the advantages are numerous, there are also some (albeit small) disadvantages such as: the initial push of ICT in Education would be arduous and setting up devices can be very troublesome, to some countries, the technology may seem an unnecessary expense and lastly, the training of teachers would be required which is costly and time consuming. ICT in education possesses the ability to stimulate the teaching/learning environment, and in addition to providing equality for all, it would create an environment that encourages creativity, critical thinking, and decision-making. This would lead to an individual being able to better find his place in a technologically driven economy.

The Ministry of Education in Trinidad and Tobago has formally recognized the need for ICT in primary and secondary schools across the nation. This led to the creation of an ICT team whose main task included the planning and managing of the Ministry’s involvement in the rollout of the ICT Initiative. The initiative seeks to highlight issues related to ICT in education and ways in which they can be alleviated. These plans are all based on the national priorities outlined in the Vision 2020 project.

It has been stated that in order for Trinidad and Tobago to achieve first world status, the nation’s children must assume a critical role in its transformation. The younger generation, regardless of their socio-economic background, can utilize technology for learning on a level playing field. ICT can assist in expanding services such as distance education which will provide educational opportunities to all fractions of the society that would normally have limited access to it. It should therefore be noted that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can contribute to universal access to education, equality in education, the delivery of quality learning and teaching, teachers’ professional development and a more efficient education management. The benefits are certainly endless!

For more information please contact us at 299-0210 ext 5048 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Inthe world of business, pricing is a very important component of marketing. This is because the pricing of your product can either make or break your business. Learning how to create a competitive product pricing strategy is crucial, especially if the goal of your marketing plan is to increase market share and survive in a very competitive environment. In order to establish a competitive pricing strategy, certain factors as outlined below must be taken into consideration.  

Firstly, the perceived value of your product influences your product pricing strategy. If your product is priced too low, customers may feel that the materials used in production of the goods is inferior and the product is of a low quality and therefore, may shy away from purchasing this product. Therefore, it is imperative when pricing your product to strike a balance between the price of your product and its perceived value.

The second factor that influences your product pricing strategy is the level of competition. If your competitor sells the same product you are selling but at a lower price, this may affect your business negatively. The more intense the competition in your industry is, the more flexible your product pricing strategy and policy will have to be. Alternatively, if you have a monopolistic hold on the market, you can certainly consider selling your product at a high profit margin.

The level of market demand is another factor that influences your product pricing strategy. When demand for a product is expected to be high, you have more flexibility in choosing pricing strategies because customers are less likely to be concerned with price since they really want your product. For example, consider the prices people are willing to pay when new video game consoles debut.

The fourth factor that influences your product pricing strategy is the demographics of the targeted customers, including age bracket, educational status and income levels of the targeted customers. For example, there are cars for the rich and cars for the middle class but both cannot be sold in the market place with the same product pricing strategy. Before Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, cars were exclusively for the rich. His company's mission statement, however, was "Democratize the automobile". Another example is Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. His product pricing strategy was summed up in the company's slogan "Always low price".

There are several types of pricing strategies that can be implemented but careful consideration must be made to the aforementioned factors before developing the pricing strategy. Additionally, the pricing objective of the firm needs to be clarified before developing the pricing strategy. If one of the overall goals for the business is to become a leader in terms of market share that the product has, then the business has to consider the quantity maximization pricing objective. If the mission of the business is to be a leader in the industry, then the business has to consider the quality leadership price objective. Revenue maximization objective is useful when introducing a new product into the market. with the goal of growing market share and establishing long term customer base.

Once the firm's pricing objective has been determined, the pricing strategy can be determined. Some of the most common pricing strategies are explained below.

One of these strategies is competitive pricing, which is pricing your product based on the prices your competitors have on the same product. This strategy can be considered in instances where there are many of your product already existing in the market and you are unable to differentiate your product to an extent that customers are willing to pay more for your product. For example, if the price range for pepper sauce currently in the market is $20.00 to $25.00 per bottle, you may price your bottle at $23.00 per bottle to fall in line with the competition.

Penetration pricing is a strategy used to gain entry into a new market to attract and grow market share. Once desired levels are achieved, product prices are increased. For example, if you have created a new bottle of barbeque sauce and based on your market research, the price range for competitor's barbecue sauce is $22.00 - $30.00, you may want to price it slightly lower than the competition for the first six months, perhaps at $20.00 to entice customers to purchase your barbecue sauce while still covering the cost of production.

Premium pricing is a strategy that can be adopted when there is something unique about the product you are selling, when the product is of a very high quality but you only expect to sell a small amount or when the product is first to market and there is a distinct competitive advantage. Premium pricing can be a good strategy for companies entering the market with a new market and hoping to maximize revenue during the early stages of the product life cycle. Apple, for example, despite high competition, has succeeded in creating demand for its products, given the company power over prices through product differentiation, innovative advertising, brand loyalty and hype around the launch of new products. 

Skim pricing strategy is similar to premium pricing strategy. However, with this strategy the price will eventually be lowered as competitors enter the market. This strategy is mostly used on products that are new and have few, if any direct competitors. When iPhone 4s was introduced in the market 4 years ago, its price was very high. Few people could actually afford an iPhone. With the passing of time, prices of the iPhone 4s decreased gradually such that nowadays many people can afford an iPhone.

The loss leader pricing strategy refers to products having low prices placed on them in an attempt to lure customers to the business and make further purchases. In addition to attracting new customers, this strategy can be used to eliminate slow moving merchandise. For example, supermarkets may use bread as a loss leader product since if customers come to the supermarket to purchase bread, the customer is more than likely to purchase other grocery items as well. Some clothing stores may advertise discounts on their existing merchandise to attempt to get rid of existing stock and make room for new trending clothes. For a loss-leader strategy to work, the profits made on other merchandise sold during the loss-leader promotion must cover the low profits or losses taken on the featured merchandise.

Multiple pricing is also a strategy used to get customers to purchase a product in greater quantities by offering a slight discount on the greater quantity. For example, 1 pair of jeans may cost $150.00 but two pairs may be priced for $280.00. Customers therefore will feel that they are getting a $20.00 discount if they purchase two pairs of jeans. However, $140.00 is the price the store would typically charge for the pair of jeans if it was not employing a multiple pricing strategy. A customer purchasing just one item will pay more for the item than what you would typically charge if you were not using a multiple pricing strategy. Multiple pricing should increase the quantities of items being sold, hopefully resulting in fewer unsold items.

Product line pricing is used when a range of products or services complement each other and can be packaged together to reflect increasing value. For example, when purchasing a cell phone, the retail outlet may offer a screen protector and a phone case as well. Rather than purchasing each item separately, they may bundle the products and offer all three items at a discounted rate.

Choosing a pricing strategy is more than just simply calculating your cost of production and tacking on a markup. Many factors need to be taken into account when developing the pricing objective and pricing strategy of the firm. This is certainly an important element of the business planning process and can be further explored in CARIRI's Business Hatchery Programme.

For further information on this programme, visit www.cedcariri.com or contact us at 299-0209 ext 2661.

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? Is it shuffling from gig-to-gig in an ever evolving free market economy? Is it akin to being an inventor? Is it a mindset, a dream and an idea immersed in your thoughts and you have started to commercialize? Does it begin when you close your first sale or land a repeat customer?Is it fixed or fluid?

Depending on your vantage point, being an entrepreneur may be all of the above, in tandem with a swirl of risk-reward assessment and mixed emotion.

However, whilst being an entrepreneur may be sparked by an idea, it goes far beyond just talking about it. It means taking a leap of faith and building a solution which meaningfully addresses the needs or pain points of a sizeable market segment, and (hopefully) produces commercial gain or profit. Whilst there are a multiplicity of books and training courses which highlight the skills needed to run a business, the two best sources of learning are derived from actually doing, and from other professionals who can demonstrate in real time how to excel in a particular area. The school of Google and YouTube may be credited for launching many startups, but an entrepreneur’s mindset, skills set and perseverance in the face of setbacks will determine its trajectory.

Entrepreneurship mettle is tested through several startup phases, from identifying a market opportunity, to planning and then launching, and ultimately managing growth.

If you have enough time and resources (financial, intellectual, emotional and physical), you can potentially solve any problem. However, the challenge with learning by doing is that you get the test first, and the lesson thereafter, and generally not before you run out of either time or resources.  Learning from other skilled professionals in real time, who are also invested in your startup's growth, can mean the difference between being self-taught (through experience) and avoiding costly mistakes. Whilst another person's experience may not stop us from repeating the same mistakes, in the context of an early stage startup (<3 years), we need the benefit of a broad skill set and collaborations with a network of partners.

Although you do not need to have it all figured out before you take the first step, you do need to get started. At CARIRI's three-month Business Hatchery Programme, we offer three useful, actionable recommendations for entrepreneurs seeking to grow their startup:

Make a habit of improving your craft

Writers write, singers sing, actors audition and entrepreneurs pitch. Knowing how to communicate well, what you do and why you do what you do, is a critical facet of entrepreneurship. In an early stage startup, the need to communicate - or pitch - what you do is a core facet in generating sales by converting a "maybe" into a definitive "yes."  Consistently delivering on what you promise will beat a pathway to repeat business and referrals.  

If you are nervous about pitching, everyone has a first time. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is practice, and pitching is a skill that frequently gets easier with practice. There really isn't a path to entrepreneurship that doesn't include risks and nervousness. CARIRI's Business Hatchery is a safe learning environment to practice pitching and improve your delivery, based on real time feedback. 

Identify your competitive strength

In an early stage startup, a single entrepreneur often performs a host of other functions - accounting, marketing, finance, creative problem solver, customer/public relations, communicator, delivery driver and personal assistant. Defining the unique knowledge which underlies a startup's capability to compete, can assuredly assist an entrepreneur (founder) in developing targeted marketing strategies and investing in focused growth. Developing the practice of looking at your business through the eyes of your customers can help you to refine your startup's competitive strength through your customers' perspective, and understand how it is connected to core knowledge and internal processes. 

Good entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do. Driven by passion and purpose, great entrepreneurs are focused on solving problems and adept at leveraging competitive strengths.

Stay grounded

You simply can't copy and paste assumptions of how business relations work. Things do not always go up. What goes up can also come down (gravity, stocks and an economic boom). There are also no template solutions on how to run a business (Branson's Virgin group of companies), transition from startup to company (Airbnb), defuse conflicts in a partnership (Facebook's Zuckerberg and Saverin), scale up, scale down, or what to do after you land or lose your biggest customer or client. Continuously sharpening an entrepreneurial mindset can assist you to weather business storms and challenges with determination, perseverance and grit, by developing a healthy attitude towards risks, being self-directed with a positive attitude towards change (stepping outside of your comfort zone) and having an innovative thrust. At the other extreme end of the spectrum, a high octane entrepreneur continuously moving at full throttle can begin to buckle under stress and pressure.

Don't get bloated by early success or defeated by early failures. Bootstrap as far as possible and fund your startup's growth organically through sales, profits and prudent financing. An entrepreneurial growth mindset will keep you hungry for success and obsessive about innovations that cry out for creation, in the face of ever evolving market needs and demands.

For more information, please contact CARIRI at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call us at 299-0210 ext 5048.

As a small business owner, Melba manufactures homemade all-natural fruit and vegetable punches and currently sells them to two health stores in her local community.  Increased demand for her product has encouraged her to expand her business to ramp up distribution to include a popular supermarket chain. In order to do so, Melba requires capital to upgrade her kitchen, hire additional workers and purchase a new transport vehicle.  She approaches her bank for a loan for the sum of money with an agreement to repay with interest over a fixed period of time.  Her good friend Patsy learns of her aspirations and offers to give her the funds she requires in exchange for a 20% stake in her business, where she (Patsy) will receive 20% of the profits, once the business turns over a profit.

When raising capital to either start your own business or expand your existing operations, entrepreneurs are often faced with making a choice, between debt and equity financing just as Melba does in the scenario described above.

Debt and equity are two main modes of raising capital, each with its separate advantages and disadvantages. More commonly known, debt financing involves accessing a sum of money from lender which is to be repaid over time with interest.  On the other hand equity financing involves accessing funds from outside investors in exchange for giving up a stake in your company.  The choice between equity and debt affects you and your business in number of ways including the level of risk you assume and the control and decision making abilities you relinquish.  

Risk:

With equity financing investors assume the risk that their investment may not provide a return if the business isn’t profitable. If the company does not make a profit, nothing is owed to the investor. However with debt financing, in the form of a loan from a bank for example, monthly installments on the loan payment are required regardless of the financial health of the business. As such, a business owner should budget for these payments and ensure that he has the ability to repay the loan. There exists the risk of insolvency if the company has pledged assets of the company and is unable to service its debt.

Implications on Cash flow:

Debt is a cost that soaks up cash flow, which is often and accurately, described as the life blood of a company. Fixed monthly installments reduce the availability of cash which could be used for critical payments in times of distress. The inability to manage cash flow has led to the decline of many businesses. Unlike debt, equity payments are not based on a fixed claim rather on a residual claim, once profits are achieved. One bonus of debt financing compared to equity financing is that interest payments are tax deductible. On the income statement this is explained as interest expense (accrued over the period covered by the financial statements). This has the effect of reducing the amount of tax paid, as the taxable income is reduced by the amount of the interest payment. The cost of equity is not tax deductible.

Impact on Decision Making:

On the downside, equity financing involves giving up part ownership of your company which may include some decision making power and control. Third party investors may demand input into how the business should be operated and sole decision making authority is removed from the single business owner. Compromises between the owner and investors may be necessary if there are differences in opinions with regards to key business decisions. Contrarily, lenders do not have any say in how the business is run nor do they have any input into decision making regarding the future of company.

Timeline:

The length of the period to repay debt is fixed and definite. For example a loan taken for a five year period will come to maturity after five years. Equity meanwhile has no deadline and will continue for the life of the business unless investors choose to sell their stake in the business.

Both types of financing come with their own pros and cons, it is up to the business owner or entrepreneur to decide which is best, taking into consideration his present circumstances, carefully weighing his options. 

For more information, contact CARIRI’s Business Hatchery at 299-0209 ext 5048 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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