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“There's no such thing as routine in my day-to-day work”

Through a series of portraits, SOLEIL meets the people who make the synchrotron work. For this second episode, Danielle Njinwoua, a senior safety technician, has agreed to take part. She tells us all about her busy day-to-day.

The fact that SOLEIL teams and users of the beamlines can work safely is largely thanks to her team, the Safety group. Danielle Njinwoua, Safety Technician, runs safety training courses for new employees, does risk assessment and draws up prevention plans... She works in a field position with extremely varied missions, where routine does not exist.

In the course of a day at the SOLEIL synchrotron, you're likely to come across Danielle at various points around the site. It could be in the hall, as she welcomes new employees for training, on a beamline during a safety inspection, or in the SOLEIL vegetable garden, in the middle of watering an almost ripe tomato plant. “Every morning when I arrive at the synchrotron, I know that the day will go by very quickly,” smiles Danielle. "It's quite simple: routine doesn't exist in my daily life.”

The need to care for others

Born in Cameroon 42 years ago, Danielle completed her primary and secondary education in the small town of Bangangté. After obtaining her scientific baccalaureate, she studied chemistry at the University of Yaoundé, before flying to France.

Danielle first trained in fire safety, after which she became a civil firefighter for 7 years. “Before becoming a career choice, the need to take care of others is a cardinal value for me, nurtured since my early childhood by my personal path and my maternal side,” she continues. “In the end, it was this first experience that triggered my passion for the occupational safety profession.

It was also during this period that she met Gilles Delclos, a firefighter and now head of safety at a company in the Paris region, who was to play a decisive role in Danielle's career. “He guided me in this direction and, above all, encouraged me to go back to school,” she explains. “His presence was beneficial, thanks to his advice, his rigor and above all his protection,” she continues. "As you can imagine, it's not easy for women to find their feet in a very male-dominated environment. Thanks to his unconditional support and encouragement, I was able to take the plunge."

With the support of her colleague, Danielle enrolled in a DUT - now BUT - in Health, Safety and Environment (HSE). She was then recruited by PSA in 2017, as part of the HSE team. She finally left the international group two years later to train as a Quality, Health, Safety and Environment Manager. Danielle was then hired by Qualibat in 2019, where she worked for two years. "The HSE profession is 60% field, 40% office. But for this job, I worked a lot in front of the computer,” she recounts. “With the routine, I started to get bored, so I started applying elsewhere”.

A complex job with multiple missions

Danielle readily admits that, before applying to SOLEIL, she had never heard of the synchrotron. “But I was immediately intrigued by the infrastructure,” she recalls. “I wanted to know at all costs what it was, how it worked, what went on inside, with that mysterious beam... I was almost haunted!” The candidate is equally attracted by the diversity of the tasks offered by the job: “the various risks inherent in synchrotron activity offer a wide field of experimentation. I could say goodbye to boredom,” she explains.

Danielle joined the SOLEIL team as a safety technician in February 2022, with as much enthusiasm as apprehension, “faced with the responsibilities of safety in such a scientific structure”. Fortunately, she has the support of her team manager, Jean-Pierre Laurent, whom she would like to thank “for his trust and patience”, and of engineer Laurent Germain “who was and still is ready to enlighten her on [her] questions”. As a new recruit, she began training for her new position, working in tandem with her predecessor. "It's a multi-tasking job, which can be quite complex, especially at the beginning.” And with good reason. Danielle's days are busy and follow one another without resembling one another.

A taste for daily challenges

Her missions? To pass on safety instructions adapted to SOLEIL teams, external contractors and users. This includes drawing up prevention plans for service providers, and setting up numerous training courses for synchrotron personnel, from fire-fighting to first aid and occupational health. Danielle also organizes safety inspections of premises and beamlines. She also participates in risk assessment to validate or not the use of a chemical product during experiments. During SOLEIL's technical shutdowns, she has to validate permits for work and visits to the tunnels of the accelerators, not forgetting safety drills twice a year. The technician must also deal with requests for advice from employees and follow up on near-misses and accidents.

As you can see, there are a huge number of assignments,” says Danielle. "But that's what makes my job so exciting”. Because this seasoned professional loves the daily challenges. And in her job, she has no shortage of them: “every day, we have to check that all the preventive plans have been carried out, and that the experiments don't start without signing the SAS - for Safety Approval Sheet - which are forms defining the safety instructions for experiments on the beamlines”. And there's no secret to getting the job done, apart from a keen sense of organization. “At the end of each day, before I leave SOLEIL, I already have an overall idea of my tasks for the following day, which will be prioritized according to need,” explains Danielle. On arrival at the office at 8:30 am, first reflex: check the schedule before embarking on the day's work, which is often studded with unforeseen events, “such as a fire alarm going off, someone getting sick, new urgent files...”.

Danielle checks an installation for an experiment with dangerous gases on the ROCK beamline, before signing an SAS.

While the diversity of these missions could be a source of stress, it is, on the contrary, what stimulates Danielle: “working at SOLEIL has given me a lot of autonomy,” she says. “I learn every day from all the people here, and that helps me mature professionally,” she adds. "Not only do I have the opportunity to practice my HSE profession in all its dimensions, but I've also learned a lot in the field of science and research.”

A busy but balanced life

Fulfilled in her career, Danielle advises anyone wishing to enter the safety field “not to hesitate”. For the technician, Health Safety Environment (HSE) is a “very rich” branch, but also “a job with a future, in a world where health and safety in the workplace have become essential components of companies”, she believes. “To become a safety technician, you need to be able to analyze and anticipate, a good listener, discerning and self-controlled, with a good dose of patience,” she says.

Passionate about her work, Danielle never forgets to allow herself regular moments of relaxation. Every weekend, she sets herself the goal of walking to two towns near her home. "It can take me hours, but it's a moment I really enjoy.” An avid reader, Danielle enjoys books whose stories are based on real events, “books that enable me to discover the culture of other peoples”.
A welcome breathing space, which she also allows herself during her working day, by regularly taking part in activities at SOLEIL. Twice a week at lunchtime, she joins a yoga class. A sporty break that also provides an opportunity to socialize with colleagues in a less formal setting. Danielle is also deeply involved in the synchrotron's shared vegetable garden project. With her green thumb, she grows tomatoes and strawberries, as well as exotic vegetables that she has already been able to harvest: “I like to eat what I've put my energy into growing,” she explains simply.

In the shared SOLEIL vegetable garden, Danielle is busy transplanting leeks.

And it's only a short step from garden to plate. When her schedule allows, Danielle likes to get behind the stove and experiment: “I love cooking for others and trying out new recipes”. A desire to care for others and a taste for adventure that can be found not only in her profession, but also in her dishes.

Danielle Njinwoua’s mini biography

1999: Scientific baccalaureate, Bangangté, Cameroon
2000 to 2001: Chemistry course, University of Yaoundé, Cameroon
2009: Fire safety training, Vitry-sur-Seine, France
2009 to 2015: Civilian firefighter, IGH headquarters of Société Générale, La Défense, Île-de-France, France
2016: DUT Hygiène Sécurité Environnement (HSE), IUT de Saint-Denis, Saint-Denis, France
2017: prevention technician, PSA, Poissy, France
2020: graduation as Quality, Health, Safety and Environment Manager, IFOCOP, Éragny, France
2019 to 2021: trainee, document analysis quality technician, Qualibat, Paris 16e, France
2022 to present: Senior safety technician, Synchrotron SOLEIL, Saint-Aubin, France


In Danielle's library

Ma vie d'esclave, by Mende Nazer
"This choice is motivated by the fact that it is a book inspired by a true story, that of the life of its author, who reveals the secrets of his fight for fundamental freedom. The lesson we can learn from it is that we must always keep in mind what we have pledged ourselves to."

La sagesse de mon village, by Claude Njiké-Bergeret
"Mrs Claude Njiké-Bergeret or ‘The White Queen’ is one of the many queens of the royal court of the village of Bangangté, in western Cameroon, who has braved cultural boundaries to embrace a world that contrasts with her French origins. What I learned from reading this book is that happiness can be enjoyed in different ways. Through this book, I learned a lot about my own culture, because there were elements that I myself had not mastered. Claude Njiké-Bergeret has delved into the intricacies of my local tradition to bring out aspects that even natives fail to grasp."

PDF icon Treat yourself: Danielle's three favourite recipes (172.6 KB)