Oil Rig Roughnecks

Oil Rig Roughnecks

Oil Rig Roughnecks are those people who are employed to provide manual and physical labor on oil rigs and sea areas. Roughnecks exist in all professions that demand hard work. Oil rig roughnecks are part of the drill crew. The drill crew usually consists of five individuals each performing a specific task. The roughnecks work at the lowermost level; their job is to ensure the concentration of mud that needs to be poured into the pipes.

Working on the floor of the oil rig and the mudroom demands a lot of physical and psychological endurance. The four other crew members that they coordinate with are the pump man, the derrickman, the driller, and his assistant. The roughneck is supposed to report to either of the last two.

Also read: Top 10 paying jobs in marine

Companies are always on the lookout for new people to hire as roughnecks. It is an entry-level position that works both on and offshore. Though the task in itself is very strenuous, it can be rewarding too if you dedicate yourself enough. It provides job security, good pay, some added benefits like half work years. So if this sounds attractive to you, then it probably is worth giving a shot. Our need for oil rises by the day, opening up more opportunities for those who wish to work as a roughneck as they are a core part of the drill crew of an oil rig company.

Oil Rig Roughneck’s Job Description

An Oil Rig Roughneck, as mentioned earlier, is one of the key positions in a drill crew and thus a lot is depending on him. So dependability should be the most crucial part of his job description. He should not falter under stressful situations of which there are going to be many. He needs to remain calm and confident in such circumstances as otherwise, it will cause enormous problems for the entire crew and consequently the company. But if you can incorporate these characteristics in yourself prepare for a rewarding career and the potential to move up the ladder.

Another essential aspect expected of the Oil rig roughnecks is high stamina. This is because they are supposed to work 12-hour shifts (known as ‘tower’) under normal circumstances. But on more ambitious projects their shifts might be increased to an entire day or at least until the work is done. Throughout this entire shift, they need to be performing important tasks and duties such as adding new pipe-lengths as drilling gets deeper, cleaning and maintaining the drilling equipment, and working in the mud-room.

Both for creating new wells as well as drilling for oil in the old ones the mentioned duties are mandatory and require great skill and proficiency.

Educational Qualification and Compensation for a Roughneck

An aspirant starts as a roustabout (unskilled laborer), and if they can prove their abilities, they are promoted to the position of a roughneck within a short period of just six months.

The educational qualification required to apply for this post is quite modest with just a high school diploma needed. Apart from that, the aspiring candidate needs to pass a physical exam as well because that is what is going to be required more in the field. The roustabouts start simple with jobs like cleaning the deck, maintenance, painting, and assisting Oil rig roughnecks.

Most of the initial time is spent learning the ways of the hard life on the rig. Once they get accustomed to that, they are considered ready to move up the ladder after a few months or so. In case you have higher qualifications or possess previous experience there is a chance that you will be directly appointed as an Oil rig roughneck.

The starting salary of a roughneck is around $60,000 per annum, though it varies quite a bit from company to company and from one country to another. More experience will fetch you a bulkier sum. Also, roughnecks stationed at remote rigs will be paid higher. There is also a bonus and salary increase that needs to be taken into consideration as the worker’s performance meets or even exceeds the company’s expectations while at the same time maintaining safety.

Job Benefits and Outlook of an Oil Rig Roughnecks

There is no doubt that the work on the rig is very taxing both physically and mentally. But the amenities that one can enjoy on the platform compensates for all of that. Things like exercise rooms, game rooms, movies, high-speed internet, and even saunas are available offshore. The oil rig roughnecks receive all of their meals for free when onboard, and talented hands cook this meal.

Also, their laundry is taken care of so that they do not have to spend a dime while at work. Some people compare being on a rig to a cruise ship because of these lucrative facilities. Added to that you can take six months off every year while at the same time making as much money as another person who is working 50 weeks a year.

The Dangers Associated with the Job of an Oil Rig Roughneck

So far I have only been highlighting the positive aspects of the job of an oil rig roughneck. But I’ll be misleading you if I don’t show you the full image as all is not sunshine in this field. I have previously mentioned the long shifts but what is more concerning is the kinds of dangers and risks associated with this job.

Severe injuries may occur while working in this field making it one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. There is such high demand for oil from our society that it is easy to overlook the risks involved in procuring it. Between 2003 and 2013, 1,100 oil and gas workers died in work-related accidents making that an average fatality rate of 100 per year. In addition to that 1,400 non-fatal accidents are also reported every year.

Like all accidents, these injuries, illnesses, and fatalities too are preventable if proper measures are taken beforehand. The roughnecks need to be trained adequately, and proper gear needs to be provided to them. It is the very least that a company can do for its employees especially because they are putting their life at stake.

Types of Oil Extraction Accidents

Oil extraction is a complex business involving the harmonious interaction between men and machines. The complicated nature of these machines and the hazardous material that is dealt with add to the danger involved in the job. Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can prevent accident-related injuries up to a great extent. So this is not the place where the company should look at while cutting costs. Below is a list of common reasons for accidents:

Motor Vehicle Collisions

Motor vehicle accidents top the list of the causes of accidental fatalities for the people working in the oil drilling industry. It is primarily because of the remote locations of most of the rigs. So to prevent this type of accident the team members should be given proper training regarding vehicle safety. The vehicles that are being used for transporting such combustible materials should be properly checked before deployment and should also be well maintained to ensure that they are in good working condition.

Struck-By, Caught-In, Caught-in-Between

This comes second in the list of causes for work-related injuries for workers of the oil rig. This type of accident occurs due to the failure in the high-pressure lines or any of the other equipment. Many of these accidents are preventable. Proper maintenance of the machine and regular checking of the same can bring down the chances of an accident.

Also, the team members need to be taught to look out for one another as well as be aware of their surroundings while they are at their work. These simple tasks can reduce the chances of an accident by a considerable margin.

Struck-By and caught in accidents are mostly resultant of inattention, e.g., a worker may not notice a co-worker who is nearby. To prevent this reflective colors should be used for their clothing so that they are easily visible. The color should be in perfect contrast to the color of the machinery.

Explosions and Fires

We are dealing with flammable substances here. So naturally, explosions and fires are some of the main risks involved in this job. Flammable gases can be released on-site or from drilling and extraction equipment. These gases catch fire very quickly and the devastation they cause is alarming. The risk increases manifold if active hydrocarbons are detected during drilling. Even static electricity or frictional heat is enough to set it ablaze and cause injury to the entire team.

To minimize the risks, it should be made mandatory that the workers are wearing flame-resistant clothing (FRC) at the time of drilling. It should also be made sure that these are coming from reputable manufacturers as they are capable of protecting the entire body in case of a flash fire.

Wearing respirators to prevent inhalation of toxic gases is also something recommended. The gears are to be checked before being used. Apart from checking the reliability of the vendors, the documentation provided with the gear should also be thoroughly read. Stay away from used gears because there is always a chance that they could be defective.

Falls from Height

Oil extraction work mostly happens at heights quite a few feet above the ground. It is not too difficult to slip, trip or fall from there. No wonder it is one of the most common types of accidents at such places. That does not mean it cannot be prevented. With the right equipment, you can provide some security for the workers. It is advisable to secure one’s self with fall protection equipment.

Personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) can adapt to a variety of situations. The name is quite self-explanatory. Made up of an anchor, a harness, and a lanyard, the PFAS prevents the worker from falling. They increase the chances of survival by limiting free fall to two feet or less. Using these systems gives you the hope that the same number of workers would be turning up the next day.


Being a roughneck opens up different paths that advance your career and help you lead an elite lifestyle. But there are some dangers associated with it. If you feel that the risks don’t bother you and job security is of high priority this might be your ideal career. Our demand for oil keeps increasing, and with that, the openings for the position of a roughneck keep growing too. Thus the market will always be welcoming the aspiring roughnecks.

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