The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute’s (CARIRI’s) Air Quality Management Services (AQMS) and Civil Engineering department recently hosted an information session entitled, “Indoor Environmental Quality- Issues faced in the workplace” at CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development, Innovation Avenue, Freeport as part of their mandate to promote a safe and healthy working environment. The session was well attended by over 100 Health and Safety Professionals and BIGWU representatives throughout the country.
CARIRI’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Liaquat Ali Shah in his opening remarks welcomed everyone to CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development and went on to say, “We all need air to breathe therefore we are all affected by poor indoor air quality.” Mr. Shah stated that though indoor air quality in buildings was highly publicized in the media, individuals do not fully understand the effects air pollution can have on your health, work life and mental performance which in turn affects productivity.
He also touched on another new service offered by CARIRI known as Slip Resistance Testing. The occurrence of Slips, Trips and Falls within recent times, in commercial spaces has grown rapidly and in speaking with persons in the construction sector, a common point of contention has always been the coefficient of friction, which is the measure of slip resistance of a tile.
Mr. Shah urged everyone to treat health and safety as a joint commitment between management and employees to proactively find solutions. He ended his speech with this profound statement on ascertaining the root cause of IEQ, “Better is not always about doing more, but identifying the risk.”
Mr. Wesley Francis, Health and Safety Officer for BIGWU also delivered an address where he reported alarming statistics of how poor Indoor Environmental Quality can affect employee’s health and comfort. He also discussed a familiar term “Sick building syndrome” which the audience agreed is a big deterrent to productivity. He closed by urging employees to increase the circulation of information within the workplace and to encourage more meaningful discussions on pertinent issues.
Participants also gained insights from CARIRI’s expert team who 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.
Ms. Tisha John, Environmental Specialist and Head of CARIRI’s Indoor Air Quality Department presented on some of the effects and causes of poor IAQ which she attributed to common indoor contaminants such as dust, fibreglass, indoor allergens such as dust mites from carpet and fabric furniture and even ozone from photocopiers. Ms. John advised the HSE officers to keep an eye out for prevalent cases of skin rashes, dryness and irritation of eyes, nose, throat and skin, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and nausea and sinus congestion as these are common symptoms of poor IAQ. She closed off her presentation summarizing some of the common causes of issues associated with poor IAQ which include improperly maintained HVAC’s, contamination by construction materials, continuous re-circulation of air inside buildings and lastly increases in the number of building occupants.
The next presenter, Ms. Tricia Singh, Laboratory Manager of CARIRI gave a riveting presentation on, “Mold Management: A proactive approach.” She describes mold as the most misunderstood and controversial topic of all indoor air quality parameters which includes mold spores, bacteria, yeast and viruses. Ms. Singh also went on to specify three main factors influencing growth of mold indoors which include the availability of food sources, temperature and moisture.
Ms. Singh closed off by saying air contamination is not the only cause for feelings of discomfort and illness and may be related to issues in the total indoor environment such as noise levels, thermal comfort (temperature, humidity and air movement), lighting and ergonomics which she explained CARIRI has the capability to test.
CARIRI’s capabilities were expounded by Mr. Rishi Shaffie, Environmental Technologist of CARIRI who describes the Air Quality Management Unit as a multi-disciplinary team with extensive experience and a wide range of skills to meet the needs of the Client. Basically, the department can monitor for any occupational hygiene exposure (noise, heat stress, gases, particulates, vibration, lighting, and ergonomics) and compare results to international and local standards and guidelines.
Ms. Lisa Ramoutar closed off the session with her presentation on slips, trips and falls which she described as a service that is needed in Trinidad and Tobago, and by extension the region, since it will provide users of commercial spaces with a measure of comfort over the safety of walkways and floors. To assess a floor’s slip resistance, CARIRI now has a reliable, thoroughly researched floor friction test method and the equipment necessary to conduct the assessment. As Ms Ramoutar stated in her presentation “One of the biggest aspects of Walkway Safety is the Slips, Trips and Falls. We want to minimize these.”