Thoroughly Instructed Assistant Engineers
There is sometimes a tendency by men in positions of responsibility to assume not only the actual supervision of the work they have in charge but also to monopolize the details and to fail to properly instruct their subordinates in the duties of their position, so that in case of their becoming incapacitated these assistants could temporarily administer an executive position. It would almost seem that men of this stamp fear that their assistants would learn too much or too quickly and eventually supplant them in their positions. This policy, no matter from what motive, is decidedly not only shortsighted but fraught with danger to the water works of which an engineer or superintendent is in charge. A case in point came to hand recently in a city of some size. The engineer in charge of the water works was stricken with a severe illness which confined him to his bed and in consequence a section of the town was for a time without water. In accounting for the connection between the two events a local paper thus naively describes the conditions : “Residents in the X_____section of the city were without water from one to seven o’clock this morning. The engineers at the pumping station said that the air compressors that pump the water supply broke down and could not be repaired for several hours. Ever since the illness of Chief Engineer _____ at the local water works, the men have been sorely handicapped as to understanding the management of the work thoroughly. It was said by one of the engineers that most of the trouble occurred with the valves and air compressors, which have to be watched very carefully.” If the subordinates of the engineer had been properly instructed in the workings of the compressors and valves the temporary indisposition of this individual would not have resulted in the inconvenience of the many householders of the section affected. A competent and well-instructed assistant should always be on hand to step into the breech when the chief engineer is for any reason incapacitated for duty. So vital a utility of a city or town as the water works should not be dependent upon the presence of a single individual, no matter how important his position.