An Investigation of Modern Physics by Brian Williams
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  • What is an Engineer?

    Posted on August 24th, 2011 Brian 4 comments

    First of all and most important he/she must be interested in how things work. This is called CURIOSITY. Unfortunately, curiosity is also very dangerous and many budding engineers have died because of it. Therefore AWARENESS is also an important ingredient in an engineer’s personality. Awareness usually comes from EXPERIENCE, and is a type of controlled fear. This  fear may be similar to that causing me to be  aware after being belted for pulling my dad’s alarm clock to pieces when I was quite young. This didn’t stop me from pulling alarm clocks apart, but I always used ones that were ‘dead’.

    My first experience of electric shock was when I was about  8 years old. Luckily, it was only about 40 volts but was about 60 amps. I was badly shaken and had a few burns but it  was a valuable learning aid that has probably saved my life since.  Note:  Fear may save you from electrocution. I had a friend in the scouts who used to check whether a light socket was live by wetting his finger and sticking it in the socket. NOT A SENSIBLE THING TO DO. It works with some people, the others are dead.  Later in life I found that if  I was stressed  my body increased its electrical resistance, which would reduce the chance of a fatal accident. Fearless or unaware people tend not to be stressed and therefore are more likely to be killed by electric shock. However, don’t chance it. I have carried out ‘live’ connections on 240 volt supplies, but only with suitable safety precautions,  and, I can assure you, a very high stress level.  ( I used to have rubber gum boots,  a 25mm x 2 Metre x 1 Metre rubber mat, and  insulated tools and gloves).

    Another valuable ingredient is to learn from other peoples experiences as well as  your own. (Never say “It can’t happen to me. It can.)

    Learn to find the interest in any particular job. I have had numerous ‘boring’ jobs over the years. If you can find the interest in a boring job, it makes the job easier, and allows you to do it better. Also, lack of interest destroys awareness, and can therefore kill you.

    ( I was once working on a financial audit for a North Sea Oil platform, a very boring job. I spotted a name with initials that seemed familiar. I decided to  watch out for duplicate names and found quite a few who had been working for different companies at the same times. One had even been employed by six different companies during the same period and had claimed full wages from all companies plus six sets of expenses. He was quietly fired, because of the clients embarassment.)

    Always remember that if you are the senior engineer in any situation, you carry the responsibility for safety. You should therefore always be aware of the overall safety situation.

    The Engineer.

    This is a job description. This is the engineer in overall charge on any job. He should be fully knowledgeable of all aspects of a job including all the different trades involved. He may have many specialist senior engineers under him such as civil, mechanical, electrical, structural, marine, electronic, chemical etcetera. He must know enough to be able to verify that all trades have carried out work to a satisfactory standard from foundations to electronics and all trades between. He must also be conversant with contract law, finances and quantity surveying, because cost over-runs will normally be blamed on him.

    He must also be handle labour relations problems, (generally by ensuring that there are none), and must be pleasant but firm with contractors management, and in many cases, his own management.

    He cannot claim that ” he was told that it was OK”. it is his responsibility.

    Engineer is a profession. It is probably the only profession in which, if you make a mistake, other members of the profession will tell you so, and in less than a gentlemanly way. Therefore sort out mistakes quickly or admit that you have made a mistake quickly. The engineer generally has no back-up to rely on, he is on his own.

    Bearing all this in mind, it is not surprising that he is often referred to as “that Bloody Engineer”.

    Engineering Trades.

    Speciality Engineer. Must be able to design, supervise construction  and commission plant and equipment within their speciality.

    Design Engineer. Normally refers to office based senior designers.

    Draughtsman. The primary starting point for engineers, starts at detailing drawings, then detailing designs then design.

    Machinist. Operating machines such as lathes, milling machines, grinders etcetera during manufacture of equipment.

    Welder. All types of hand welding requirements. Does not normally include jig welded jobs.

    Fitter. Assembly of products, normally on site. Normally prefixed by particular trade, such as pipe-fitter.

    Mechanic. Assembly of machinery and equipment. Normally includes disassembly, fault finding and repair.

    Rigger. Normally involved in the movement and setting up of very heavy objects.

    Electrician. Carrying out installation of electrical equipment and cabling.

    Structural & Civil. Covers many trades such as steel erectors, concrete, roadworks, drainage, sewage, paving, roofing, brickwork, cladding, insulating etcetera.

    NOTE; There is much multi-discipline among trades. A fitter could also be a welder, rigger and machinist or any combination. This depends on the skill level of individuals. In the mills there was a a job title ‘Millwright’. this was the equivalent of engineer because he was in charge of all mill engineering functions, from civil to electrical. (Textile machinery is the most complex machinery ever invented.)

    NOTE:  There are many people who claim to be engineers, but unless they can show the knowledge, skill and experience of design in their subject they are not qualified to be engineers.

    Brian Williams – Author