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Oil Rig Worker career guide

You may sometimes see oil rigs making the news but what’s it like to actually work on one? Read on and find out.

Safeera Sarjoo
01st March 2016
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What is an oil rig worker?

Working on an oil rig involves a very different lifestyle to the one most people are use to. A challenging part of this career is spending a lot of time away from home and conditions are much harsher than most jobs. Having a good head for heights and staying physically fit is also beneficial in this particular role. When starting a career on an oil rig, people often begin as roustabouts. If working on a land based oil rig, roustabouts progress to derrick operators, while offshore riggers progress to roughnecks who are responsible for the drill, as well as inspect and maintain equipment like mud pumps, pipes and cranes.

Where are oil rig workers needed?

Oil riggers could work on a fixed production platform with several other workers or on a smaller mobile rig with fewer people. Facilities can also include accommodation, canteens and recreation areas to instil a sense of normality; however there are bans on alcohol and smoking.

What are their responsibilities?

Responsibilities slightly vary between derrickmen and drillers. If you’re working as a derrickman, you will be supervised by the driller with duties that include,

  • Handling and stacking sections of the drill pipe
  • Maintaining the derrick
  • Operating the lifting of machinery to position the drill
  • Controlling and maintaining mud pumps
  • Services all the derrick components

Drillers on the other hand supervise the drilling team. This is a highly skilled role and would consist of:

  • Controlling operations on the drill floor
  • Being in charge of the crew and the rig itself
  • Monitoring the rig’s activity
  • Overseeing the assembly of drilling tools
  • Records drilling process
  • Makes sure team follows appropriate health and safety rules
  • Operating the rotary drill whilst checking on pressure gauges

What characteristics suit this role?

A willingness to live away from home is incredibly important when considering a career as an oil rig worker. In addition to this, physical fitness is also beneficial as well as a head for heights. Being able to live and work as part of a team particularly if you’re working offshore will affect you day to day. Having good leadership skills is a major plus as well as being able to give and take instructions. Being practical and able to understand and straying aware of health and safety rules will go a long way in this particular career path.

Entry requirements and training

Though there are no specific qualifications needed to enter this sector, you do have to be a minimum of 18 years old. The most common route into this position is through an apprenticeship scheme. You would be expected to have at least 4 GCSEs, A – C grades in English, maths and two other relevant subjects. These are typically science or a design and technology subject.

There is scope for progression, with most people starting as roustabouts and roughnecks. At least two years’ experience is required before you’re able to apply for jobs that enable you to move up the ranks.

If you’re moving from a career where you have gained some relevant experience you could apply for a place on a Transitional Training Programme.

Naturally, there will be training involved. In order to work offshore you will be required to pass an offshore survival and fire-fighting course or a basic offshore induction and emergency training. This can be offered as part of an apprenticeship or it can be an entirely separate course.

When starting a job, onshore training is common where you prepare in key areas of this career before being located offshore. This training can include:

  • Health and safety
  • Manual handling
  • Working with dangerous substances
  • Working at heights
  • Helicopter safet

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