Every year, the company involves employees and service providers in Safety Day, which seeks to increase a safety culture; this year, the RCGI also participates in the initiative

On Tuesday, May 8, a team of researchers from the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) met with Giancarlo Ciola, the Regional Manager for External Research and Innovation from Shell, during an extension of Safety Day, which is an initiative that Shell holds every year for the purpose of helping strengthen a safety culture, involving employees and service providers. Ciola’s presentation was made at the headquarters of the RCGI, in the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (Poli-USP), in the city of São Paulo, and focused on three subjects: risk normalization, the dilemmas faced by people in the institutions in which they are involved, and caring for the procedures, processes, and people involved in them.

Giancarlo Ciola

“Risk normalization is what we do when we ride and elevator or fly in an airplane without worrying about the risk of falling. Over time, we become so accustomed and comfortable with such activities that we end up with the wrong feeling of being safe, without taking into account the risks we are taking, “says Ciola. The problem, he says, is when normalizing risk becomes standard. “It is important to notice if we are normalizing risks that should not be treated as such. Sometimes, when we perform a task on a daily basis, it ends up being considered ordinary, and the tendency is for us to think that certain risks inherent to the task are also ordinary,” he explained. “Furthermore, human beings commit errors. And the normalization of risk, added to error, could cause accidents and undesired results.”

That is the case of geologist Colombo Tassinari, Professor of USP’s Institute of Energy and the Environment (IEE) and Coordinator of the RCGI’s Project 36, which deals with the “Storage of carbon in geological reservoirs in Brazil.” He said that his field work often implies risks that he already considers to be normal.

“A month ago, a team and I went to several stone quarries to collect samples for a study. They are quarries in which the rocks at the top are fractured and fall, rolling down from above. Even with individual safety equipment, that is, hard hats and all the rest, if one of those rocks falls, it will crush you. So, in those cases, we either abort the job, or go ahead, anyway. Generally, we prefer going ahead, even though we run risks.”

Alexandre Breda, Scientific Technical Coordinator of Shell at the RCGI, says when it is impossible to avoid risks, the best thing to do is to not perform the task. “We attempt to place protective barriers, in order to avert an accident, so that it does not happen. But, sometimes, we are unable to do so. In those cases, I suggest that the task not be performed. Because nothing is worth the risk to human life.”

Chemical Engineer Liane Rossi, Coordinator of RCGI’s Project 30 (Innovative processes for converting CO2 into high aggregate value chemical products and fuels based on hybrid catalyzers), who teaches experimental laboratory classes, added that there is a dilemma constantly faced by her profession. “Many of the chemical engineering activities involve risks. If anything happens to a student in the laboratory, must I stay with the student or with the other 50 who are under my responsibility? We have had several occurrences of this type of situation and it is always difficult.” She says that USP’s Chemical Institute (IQ) is establishing norms for safety procedures and creating a fire brigade.

Professor Júlio Meneghini, Scientific Director of the RCGI, pointed out that there are no safety devices or standards for Brazilian classrooms. “They have neither emergency exits nor safety signs. Events, such as this one, are important, because they remind us of the need for safety concerns to be announced, spread, and become a part of everyone’s daily routines.”

The presentation was attended by a number of Project Coordinators, such as Professors Emílio Silva, Cláudio Oller, Cláudio Mueller Sampaio, Guenther C. Krieger Filho, and Rita Maria B. Alves (Poli-USP); Edmilson Moutinho dos Santos (IEE-USP); as well as the Director for Communications & Dissemination of Knowledge, Gustavo Assi (Poli-USP); and the Director of Human Resources and Leadership, Karen Mascarenhas. Camila Brandão, Shell’s representative at the RCGI, was also present.

Founded about two years ago, under the sponsorship of FAPESP and Shell, the RCGI has more than 200 researchers working on 45 research projects that seek innovative solutions for the technological problems of natural gas, biogas, hydrogen, and CO2 emissions, as well as giving support for improving public energy policies in the State of São Paulo, in Brazil, and in the world.