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23, Aug 2022
PECB Certified ISO 37001 Lead Auditor Course

We are glad to inform you that ISO 37001 Lead Auditor eLearning training course in English is now available.

Through interactive sessions, explanatory information, and exercises, among others, the training course aims at providing the trainees with the necessary knowledge on the audit of the anti-bribery management systems. The internationally recognized “PECB Certified ISO 37001 Lead Auditor” certificate will prove that trainees have the professional capabilities and competencies to audit an anti-bribery management system based on ISO 37001.

This eLearning training course is delivered by worldwide experts. The videos contain animations that illustrate the lecture. The animations are based on and correspond to the training courses’ sections from the traditional MS PowerPoint format. The eLearning format also contains quizzes to help trainees stay engaged.

​If you have any questions or need more information, please let us know.

10, Oct 2020
Household Air Pollution in Jamaica

There are many things going on in your kitchen that you just do not see.

By Alistair McLean | October 10, 2020

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve food. When I was growing up in Jamaica, Sunday dinner was the culinary highlight of the week. At my parents’ house, meat – chicken for the most part, but sometimes oxtail, or fish – was seasoned on Saturday afternoon and allowed to marinade overnight. Chicken then baked in the oven low and slow for hours on Sunday afternoon until the meat was tender, juicy and so full of flavor that each bite made you feel everything was right with the world. Oxtail sat in a pressure cooker along with beans, herbs, and spices; the cooker would whistle and hiss merrily, reminding everybody that something good was coming up. While the meat was gradually approaching perfection, rice and peas cooked slowly on a burner next door. Red Snapper was the favorite fish, seasoned to perfection, it would be partially fried then steamed, yielding a gourmet’s delight with delicious, mouthwatering gravy. For special occasions, the fare would be complemented with a pot of potatoes on the stove to make potato salad and another pot to boil macaroni for baked macaroni and cheese. Meanwhile, at the counter, mom and dad made tossed salad with fresh veggies, and a delicious fruit drink using some combination of mangoes, passionfruit, guavas, oranges and soursop.

My folks were not the baking types, except for one magical night during the Christmas holidays when they baked five traditional Jamaican Christmas Cakes. My parents did it the right way in a monumental baking operation that resembled the technical challenge on the Great British Baking Show. Dried fruit that had spent months soaking in red wine was combined with flour, molasses, rum, butter, eggs, and other ingredients. By midnight, five cake pans of black gold appeared on the kitchen counter where the cakes slowly cooled off. The bakers sweated profusely by the end of the baking session from buzzing around the kitchen and occasionally opening the oven to check on the progress of the cakes.

As a small kid, I assumed that cooking and baking were only done using a gas stove, but I came to realize how wrong I was. At the age of eight or nine, I noticed a man fussing over a huge mound of soil with smoke rising from all sides, always in the same spot – an empty lot adjacent to a highway next to an irrigation canal. Periodically, the mound was taken apart and the contents removed, but soon after, a new mound emerged. One day I asked my dad about the mystery mound. He told me about the process of making charcoal, which requires setting a pile of wood ablaze, then piling soil on it to cut off the oxygen supply and finally retrieving the wood after some time before it burnt out completely. Charcoal, he explained, was a vital cooking fuel source for many Jamaicans. Dad used the opportunity to tell me about the way food was cooked when he was a boy. Grandma would situate a large pot on three stones that sat on an elevated platform. She inserted dried wood between the stones, doused a piece of paper with kerosene, put the paper in the wood pile and then lit it. The flames eventually died down, but not before producing a lot of smoke that escaped through a small window in the makeshift zinc shed next to the house that served as the kitchen. Grandma stayed close by to stir the pot periodically, add ingredients, insert more wood and remove ashes from burnt-out wood.

With so many wonderful memories linked to it, cooking is such a common, mundane activity that we rarely think of it as a health threat. And yet, we should. The reason is that indoor cooking gives rise to unsafe levels of air pollution in a home. For a long time, I associated air pollution with the stifling stream of exhaust from the tail pipe of an old diesel truck or the dust from the sand and cement used to construct new homes in the community where I grew up. However, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute, most stoves produce harmful particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5) and ultrafine particles (UFP) when used for cooking. Gas stoves specifically emit a range of pollutants, such as particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.

Around the world, approximately 3 billion people cook using solid fuels such as charcoal, wood and animal dung, according to World Health Organization estimates. This practice leads to the death of about 4 million people annually from illnesses caused by indoor air pollution resulting from cooking with solid fuels. Indoor air pollution is linked to strokes, heart disease and lung cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable because their lungs are still developing, while their activity levels are significantly higher than those of adults: children breathe much faster, exposing themselves to more harmful substances. Besides detrimental lung health effects, recent research points to cognitive impairment in school-age children as a consequence of their exposure to air pollution.

My parents moved from the rural areas of Jamaica where they grew up as children, obtained college degrees which led to decent jobs and the wherewithal to provide a middle-class lifestyle for my brother and me. This meant using a propane-fueled gas stove for all our cooking needs, rather than solid fuel. Propane provided a cleaner-burning fuel alternative because it produces less particulate matter than solid fuels. This was an improvement, but did not completely eliminate substantial gaseous emissions from our kitchen. 

So, was that the solution? In order reduce reliance on solid fuel, do people need to relocate to cities and leave their solid fuel stoves behind? As it turns out, research on the use of and transition away from household solid fuel suggests that factors such as improved access to electricity, increased population density and greater urbanization have a negative relationship with solid fuel use. Jamaica’s overall solid fuel dependence has declined dramatically over time. At least in part, we can thank nearly universal electricity access (99 percent of the country’s population), growing population density (271 people per square km in 2018, up from 223 in 1990), and urbanization (just 44 percent of the population now reside in rural areas, compared to 51 percent in 1990), as World Bank data show.

Figure 1: Negative relationship between population access to electricity and solid fuel use in Jamaica

Figure 2: Negative relationship between population density and solid fuel use in Jamaica

Figure 3: Positive relationship between increasing rural population and solid fuel dependence in Jamaica

Figure 4: Declining trend in solid fuel dependence in Jamaica over the 2 past decades

Yet, the kitchen unquestionably remains the heart of the home, regardless of where the home is located. How can we make it safer? The good news is that, overall, Jamaican households rely on solid cooking fuels much less now than three decades ago: only 8 percent of households cooked using solid fuels in 2017, compared to 33 percent in 1990. The bad news is that approximately 80% of Jamaicans now use gas for cooking, despite the fact that emissions from gas stoves present an environmental health hazard. While heavy solid fuel dependence is no longer an issue, remaining indoor air pollution is still a troubling threat to health.

Here are some simple solutions to improve the air quality in the kitchen – and help your entire family breathe clean air at home:

  1. Open a window in the kitchen while cooking and give the neighbors a serious case of cooking envy. If you drive around densely populated communities like Portmore and Ensom City on a Sunday afternoon between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 pm, you will treat your nostrils to the dazzling selection of smells that will make you question your dinner plans. Let passers-by take in and enjoy amazing scents of your slow baked chicken, curried goat, fried fish and bammy, peppered steak and rice and peas! Opening windows is an easy and low-cost solution to expelling the gases produced by cooking on a gas stove.
  2. Put a box fan in the window. A standing fan is already the go-to option for cooling down houses, but I bet you did not know that a window fan is an affordable option to improve air quality in the kitchen.  A well-placed window fan can pull in fresh air from outside into the kitchen and help remove polluted air from the kitchen. And if you have an exhaust fan over your stove, don’t forget to use it!
  3. Use an air cleaner. The marketplace is filled with an assortment of portable air purification systems. However, do not be intimidated by the enormous range of available options. Make sure that the air cleaner has a clean air delivery rate (CADR) suited for the kitchen/dining room AND has activated carbon filters. The CADR scale goes from 400-450, depending on the particle size measured, where dust CADR can be as high has 400 and smoke CADAR can be as high as 450. An air cleaner with a high CADR and activated carbon filters will remove fine particles and gases and allow you to enjoy leisurely Sunday and Christmas dinners safely.
  4. Use an induction stove. Many Jamaican households prefer gas stoves because these are cheaper to operate compared to their electric counterparts, even though using an electric stove would significantly reduce household air pollution. It is easy to see why. When you receive your monthly electricity bill from JPS (the sole electric utility in Jamaica), it is enough to make you scream and avoid all electrical appliances altogether. There is also the taste factor: I have heard people say that cooking with gas makes the food taste better. I am not going to wade into this debate because I am more of an eating expert than a cooking expert. However, with more families trying to stretch their budgets, cooking efficiency should drive the decision of which stove to purchase. Let me introduce you to the induction stove. According to the Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, up to 90 percent of energy produced on an induction stove is used to cook the food, compared to approximately 74 percent for electric stoves and – wait for it! – only up to 40 percent for gas stoves. With induction cooktops, you do not have to worry about gas leaks, while their benefits include energy efficiency and the ease of cleaning.

By reducing indoor air pollution, households can significantly reduce respiratory illnesses and improve their quality of life indoors. Did you realize that indoor air pollution resulting from cooking was such a significant health hazard? What steps have you taken to reduce indoor air pollution in your home?  Future editions of KTMC Perspectives will cover other sources of indoor air pollution.

21, Aug 2020
Four Suggestions to Protect Human Capital During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Employees should be at the center of any business continuity plan.

By Alistair McLean | Aug. 21, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected business continuity plans (BCPs) of numerous organizations, from family-owned grocery stores to top-tier companies with billions of dollars in annual revenue. For many entities, the important risk mitigation measures in a BCP are dictated by factors such as geographical location, the complexity of the information technology network and the safe evacuation of personnel in the event of a fire. Anticipated business disruption events are usually expected to last anywhere from a few hours to a few months. However, these are not usual times: the economic fallout from this pandemic requires business owners and senior management to plan for the persistent impact to last for the next several months, if not years.  

Consider Boeing’s situation. Its supply chain involves dozens of companies that employ thousands of workers.  The implosion of worldwide travel demand severely dented Boeing’s commercial airline business. By some estimates, global passenger traffic will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024. In anticipation of the lack of demand for commercial jetliners over the next few years, Boeing laid off thousands of workers. Several suppliers followed suit: for instance, General Electric’s aviation unit announced layoffs and other cost cutting measures because of a reduction in demand for jet engines from Boeing. Employees who were fortunate to remain after the job cuts face the daunting task of taking on additional responsibilities and learning new job functions quickly to stabilize company operations. Therefore, employees should be at the center of business continuity planning during the pandemic and have an outsized role as firms imagine a post-COVID-19 future.  

Here are four ways to safeguard the health and productivity of a company’s workforce during these uncertain times:

1. Embrace distance.

Expand remote work options. Royal Bank of Canada and tech giants Google and Facebook announced that most staff would be allowed to work remotely until 2021. Not only does a shift to remote work reduce density in the office, it also serves as a talent retention strategy.  Employees with medical conditions that put them at a higher risk of serious illness from contracting the coronavirus are likely to stay with an employer that offers remote work, at least until a proven and effective vaccine is widely available. Many K-12 schools all over the country have reopened and quickly recorded numerous positive COVID-19 tests among students and employees, notably at North Paulding High School, located in the northwest suburbs of Atlanta, where there were cases after just the first week of in-person instruction. The U.S. is not unique in facing this challenge: in other countries, school reopening has also resulted in COVID-19 outbreaks, despite some successful reopening examples. A number of school districts in major metro areas, such as New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, will reopen later in August using either hybrid or totally remote learning models.  Therefore, employees who have the option of working remotely will not have choose between giving up their jobs and doing right by their kids. With the multitude of software to support remote work, employees can remain productive and accountable for their work without being in the physical office.

2. Communication, communication, communication!

Communicate regularly with employees.  Regular frank and open communication fosters employee engagement. Team members might be frustrated by the cloud of uncertainty regarding their jobs, concerned about their employers’ financial viability and stressed by the need to cover the responsibilities of former co-workers who have been terminated. The last thing employees need in this environment is a short and cryptic email on a Friday afternoon requesting that select company personnel attend a mandatory meeting on Monday morning with a special guest, Mary from HR. A few weeks into the pandemic, Airbnb made the decision to layoff several employees. CEO Brian Chesky demonstrated the empathy and compassion that needed to be conveyed to employees that were let go and encouraged resilience and hope for the future to employees who would remain with the company. When management communicates a plan for a company’s future, employee buy-in is possible, especially if there is a way for employees to offer anonymous feedback on the plan. 

3. Think beyond physical wellness.

Establish or improve an employee wellness program. Before the pandemic, many employee wellness programs focused on improving wellness to reduce company healthcare costs and absenteeism among workers. This was done by offering subsidized gym memberships, nutrition education, health assessments, smoking cessation, and weight loss programs. During the pandemic, people feel more frustrated, fearful and angry. To help employees get through the next several months, wellness programs need to bolster their mental health component. There has been a surge in interest in mental health assistance as workers fret over job security while they work long hours, manage workplace conflicts and juggle the demands of parenting during the week.

4. Address money woes.

Establish an employee assistance fund. The objective of an employee assistance fund (EAF) is to help employees ride out unexpected financial hardship brought on by a reduction in household income due to job loss or unforeseen medical expenses. Employees are ineffective at their job when they are hampered by persistent money worries. According to the Aspen Institute, 30-40 million Americans face eviction from their homes over the next several months. Personnel cannot be expected to get a good night of sleep in the comfort of a cardboard box located under a highway bridge. In addition, food prices have increased substantially during the pandemic. Eyeballs are focused on the cash register at checkout because a grocery bill can exceed a hundred dollars very quickly – even when half the items are still left on the checkout conveyor belt. Back-to-school shopping for the 2020-2021 academic year has taken on a decidedly expensive look.  Parents have to spend mini fortunes on laptops, tablets, desks, and chairs to prepare for remote learning in the fall.  

By taking care of their people, companies can create a workforce with the energy and drive needed to see their businesses through the pandemic and prepare for a post-COVID-19 future.  Let me know the measures your organization has taken to support employees. Future editions of KTMC Perspectives will cover other aspects of a successful business continuity plan.   

14, Aug 2020
Quick Tips for Occupational Safety & Health in the Beverage Industry

In the process of delivering refreshment and enjoyment, managers in the beverage industry need to be cognizant of the hazards and risks faced by employees and implement measures to effectively mitigate them. Employees in the industry are prone to certain types of injuries and illnesses. Some of the more common ones are highlighted in this post.

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD’s) – Includes an assortment of strain, sprain and abuse issues. These incorporate everything from spinal pains to work-related upper limbs disorders which can cause aches and pains, tenderness, weakness, tingling, numbness, cramp, burning, redness and swelling, to overexertion from lifting, pulling, and pushing.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) – Hearing loss caused by exposure to noise on a continuous basis such as in a manufacturing environment like the beverage industry. It can also be caused by a traumatic noise exposure which may cause an immediate hearing loss. In most cases though, occupational hearing losses occur gradually over time. Recognizing damaging noise sources, eliminating them, reducing exposure through hearing protection devices are preferred hearing loss prevention strategies.

Occupational Lung Disease(OLD)- Specific aggravations at work can prompt several types of lung infections. For instance, working in the beverage industry can open an individual to unsafe synthetics, various chemicals and other irritants that can prompt long-term lung issues. The best approach is to anticipate issues through risk assessment and put in place protective measures based on the hierarchy of hazards control: elimination; substitution; engineering control; administrative controls; and finally, personal protective equipment.

Occupational Rhinitis (OR) – May be defined as “an inflammatory condition of the nose, which is characterized by intermittent or persistent symptoms (i.e., nasal congestion, sneezing, and itching) and/or variable nasal airflow limitation and/or hypersecretion, due to causes and conditions attributable to a particular work environment and not to stimuli encountered outside of the workplace”. Even though this condition alone isn’t dangerous, its effect on personal satisfaction and work efficiency can be considerable. It can likewise irritate different conditions, for example, asthma. Typical causes include cleaning products and strong irritants. Management of occupational rhinitis is straightforward, with avoidance being the primary intervention.

Occupational Skin Diseases (OSD) – Any work environment that includes over the top hand washing, hand cleanliness or wet work is a primary hazard for word related contact dermatitis (contact dermatitis is a skin condition brought about by contact with something that aggravates the skin or causes a hypersensitive response). Skin diseases are among the most important emerging risks related to extensive use of, and exposure to, chemicals. There is usually a causal relationship between the disease and exposure to a harmful situation or agent which is linked to the workplace. The best approach is anticipation and implementation prevention measures.  

To limit the danger to wellbeing, managers must have a characterized anticipation program in place. All conceivable work-related wellbeing risks should initially be recognized and assessed then effectively treated. In conclusion, recognizable proof and utilization of legitimate individual defensive hardware (PPE) is essential but most important is the emphasis on elimination, substitution, engineering and administrative controls (procedures, signage, training, etc.)

3, Aug 2020
Three Home Office Tips for Remote Work Warriors

You may have no choice but to work from home, but you can choose to be comfortable while doing so.

By Alistair McLean | Aug. 3, 2020

If you are one of the many people working from home since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, you must have a list of pros and cons of this work arrangement by now.

Some of the cons might include:

  • You had to carve out a workspace out of your already cramped city apartment. Maybe you asked your twin boys to share a room because you needed a dedicated space in the house for your home office. The boys have not forgiven you for this unreasonable request, and you doubt they ever will.
  • The separation between your home life and work life is gone. Hello multitasking!
  • If you manage a team, it is hard to integrate new team members due to a lack of chemistry between the new hires you brought onboard during the pandemic and employees that have been on the team before the virus booted everyone out of the office.

Yet, on the bright side:

  • It is convenient to do a chore or two between various Zoom and Webex meetings.
  • There is nobody peering over your cubicle and questioning your work ethic if you do happen to check the latest headlines on espn.com every once in a while.
  • If you are a parent with young kids, working from home ensured that you were there to provide tech support when your kids needed help joining a Google Meet session or wanted a parent to share in an important accomplishment on Raz-Kids.  If you got behind on typing up a business proposal because you had to help your kids with a few assignments on Seesaw, working remotely meant you could stay up late after the kids went to bed to complete that proposal without having to drive to your company’s office and work in your lonely cubicle.

No matter how you feel about remote work, the COVID-19 pandemic forces many employers to maintain their work from home arrangements to reduce crowding in offices and limit the spread of the coronavirus. For example, on July 27, 2020, the search engine giant Google opted to allow its employees to continue working remotely until at least July 2021, according to an internal memo written by Google CEO Sundar Pichai and obtained by CNN.  

Without a doubt, the ability to work remotely is a privilege, especially at a time when many workers have been furloughed or even terminated. A job loss is particularly challenging during a pandemic because that means losing not only an income, but also an employer-provided health insurance (if you are lucky to have that). Itemized medical bills pre-pandemic were already scary enough to make one quickly glance at the balance in their bank account and then back at the bill while beads of sweat poured down their face.  

If you are one of the fortunate employees who get to keep your job with the option of working from home, or if your job has always had a significant flexibility component, it is essential to set up your home work space with your health in mind. Proper desk ergonomics is crucial because it helps support good posture when you must sit at your desk all day – especially if your desk is also your kitchen table more suited for slicing vegetables than typing reports. Poor posture can severely impair your musculoskeletal system, leading to numerous musculoskeletal disorders, including tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain. You know, the type of pain that radiates from your lower back and down your legs after sitting down for a three-hour Zoom meeting, or the discomfort that you feel in your neck  after balancing the phone between your ear and shoulder for 30 minutes while you listened to your parents bicker over who should have called to demand a refund for a cancelled vacation, while you typed up a report on your laptop. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, back injuries were the most reported musculoskeletal disorder in 2016. 2020 statistics are sure to look worse, given the massive shift to remote work. With many more weeks of the pandemic likely ahead of us, now is the time to take your home office space to the next level.

Because you do not need any more convincing, here are three ways to make working from home a bit less painful:

  1. Find the right furniture.  Cannot emphasize this enough.  A bit of time and effort to research the ideal desk, chair and computer will go a long way in setting up the most comfortable workspace where you can be your most productive self. 
  2. Improve your posture.  This is a biggie. I start out my workday sitting at my desk properly (i.e. my elbows bent at 90 degrees, my back straight and supported by a small cushion, and my thighs and hips parallel to the floor). As hours pass, I get more and more undisciplined with my posture and before long, I am hunched over my desk with my right leg crossed over my left knee.  For some reason this feels more comfortable, but my achy back makes me regret it pretty soon.
  3. Keep moving.  This is hard to do.  If you are leading a conference call with an agenda list so long that there is a collective groan from the other participants at the start of the call, chances are you will sit for 2 hours non-stop. Time flies when you are having fun, eh?  Taking breaks to stretch and walk around keeps the blood flow going and relieves muscle fatigue. It is so hard to remember to get up from your desk when you are in the zone, but if setting up a timer to go off every 50 minutes is what you have to do to remind yourself to take breaks, just do it. About 60-75 minutes of moderately challenging physical activity per day can help you undo all the damage from your sedentary workday, according to the 2016 Lancet study. That’s just six or seven 10-minute breaks throughout your day!

I will explore further the right furniture, posture and tips for integrating movement into your workday in future blog posts.  Let me know what changes you have made to your home office space.