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Life on an Oil Rig

Life on an oil rig

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Working on Oil Rigs

The operation of heavy industrial equipment always comes with personal risk. Of course, oil is combustible and that brings its own hazards.

Arguably the biggest factor in work-related injuries and fatalities is fatigue as the hours in this industry are long and unforgiving.

Onshore oil & gas operations can carry just as much risk, even apart from the drilling site itself: transportation of materials and equipment, often on back roads and untracked areas combined with fatigue can result in accidents and does every year.

Living on an offshore oil rig entails a lot of strict and heavy conditions and everyone with the desire to work in such an environment always ponders on the living conditions in the hostile looking surroundings.

Being extremely isolated in a place such as an oil rig, and the idea of living on the open ocean with either very hot or cold weather conditions frightens a lot of people with the zeal to work there.

It should also be carefully noted that these conditions vary according to the specific job positions on the rig.

Honestly, jobs on oil rigs are different from those on dry land in so many ways but the working conditions have been revolutionized over the past decade to feel much more comfortable and interesting for personnel in this domain.

Living Conditions on an oil rig

Even though offshore oil rig jobs are very dangerous, they have been made comfortable nowadays as opposed to a few years ago.

After you are transported by helicopter far into the middle of the ocean and dropped off at an offshore oil rig, you’ll have to put on your work gear first before starting work on your own shift which is 12 hours.

There are drilling unit catering personnel who are always around for the sole purpose of providing your daily practical needs.

They handle task such as washing, cooking and cleaning in order to ensure that you have ample relaxation time once you are done with your shift.

There are several leisure activities on oil rigs which are different in the various units. Modern oil rigs have been made more comfortable than before as there are fitness rooms for workout during any spare time.

There are also games you can play with your colleagues as well as the watching of movies or you could simply rest in the room allocated to you. Oil rigs also have smoking zones where smokers are provided with safety matches.

They have televisions and cinema in all the rooms, gymnasiums, indoor sporting activities with their corresponding facilities such as table tennis.

The workers also have access to computers with internet connection as well as some other fringe benefits the workers enjoy.

Oil rigs operate 24 hours a week and each worker is assigned to either a nighttime shift or a daytime shift of 12hrs each. Oil rigs also offer services such as unlimited meals, daily laundry services as well maid services.

Oil rigs also have very attractive pay packages earned from the work carried out.

Offshore workers in charge of construction, drilling or metallurgical workers with their respective assistants work under rough weather conditions outdoors.

The other oil rig jobs such as the engineers and geologists share the task they are required to carry out among the various offices inside the oil rig platform which are outside which implies that they enjoy intermediate weather conditions while the managers administrative and executive staff work under the most comfortable conditions i.e. in the offices.

Here are some of the jobs on an offshore rig that I’ve already written about in more detail:

The living conditions on oil rigs nowadays are greatly improved and most of the offshore rigs nowadays have living conditions which meet hotel standards.

Once the new workers arrive on the oil rig, they are secured with everything they need to guarantee a comfortable and safe working environment.

Everybody on the oil rig is provided with items which ensure their security such as safety boots, overalls, hard hats and safety glasses.

They are also shown all the installations on the oil rig. Working on offshore oil rigs is quite economically profitable. The benefits of these type of oil jobs are higher than the similar jobs which are instead carried out on land.

You can be reimbursed with the amounts of potential expenditures on the oil rig such as accommodation, food, and travel when you are leaving or going to the work place by the oil rig company and you may decide to keep everything you have earned in the bank. Foreign country oil rigs are more attractive financially.

The company takes care of all expenditures for all the long-distance flights taking the workers to their respective oil rig workplaces or to meet up with friends and family.

Reaching Location

Depending on the distance from the coast, one can reach offshore locations either by helicopter or Offshore Supply Vessels (OSV). Traveling by chopper is the common means of transportation on a daily basis.

When traveling by air it is mandatory to have Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) for offshore-going personnel. This training provides life saving techniques in case of emergencies. A safety briefing video is shown before boarding  the helicopter.

Landing on Offshore location

Life on an Oil rig

After landing, an offshore installation Helicopter Landing Officer (HLO) will guide you out of the chopper and a rig safety officer will give an introduction on the day of arrival about the life saving apparatus’ on board and available escape routes.

Accommodation & Food

life on an oil rig

Space is a big constraint in all offshore oil and gas installations so it is mandatory to share accommodations with your colleagues. Personal quarters with double or four beds is common. Each room will have its own wash room and toilet facility.

“Galley” is a nautical term for kitchen and dining area. Each installation has a self-service canteen or catering system with a wide variety of food, cooked and served four times a day. A team of cooking and serving staff are present on board to prepare meals and take care of daily needs of the working personnel. Food and supplies are delivered on a weekly basis by OSV’s.

On-Off Pattern & Working hours

life on an oil rig

Duty patterns are as follows: 14-14, 21-14, or 28-28. You have to work 14 days offshore before going home for 14 days. This pattern mainly depends on the organization in which you are employed.
Every job is different and everyone has their own responsibilities. Twelve hour days are the minimum working time with day and evening shifts available. The workload is always high and the job itself is very challenging.

You should be physically and mentally fit. Contractors give a lot of  importance to physical and mental condition of the crew and they make sure that the new employees can meet the challenges.

Communication & Recreation

Communication is a very important aspect of spending time offshore. For safety reasons, the use of mobile phones is not allowed. The vast distances from shore prevent the use of traditional cellular service anyway.

However, there are calling cards and internet facilities on the platforms which you can access during off-duty hours. After long hours most personnel will try to go to bed rather than look for entertainment, but there are shared entertainment areas on board.

Smoking and health care

Smoking offshore is allowed only in designated areas but you are not allowed to carry any source of ignition. Matches for lighting cigarettes are provided in the smoking areas.

Alcohol, weapons and non-prescribed drugs are completely banned on all offshore oil and gas installations.

Every rig has a medical station with a basic treatment facility. After arrival a medic will ask you to complete a form to document your health conditions.

Pros and Cons of Working on an Oil Rig


1. Total Coverage
Most oil rig companies also provide profit sharing, life insurance, medical insurance, dental insurance alongside other fringe benefits for the workers who work on their oil rigs.

This is in order to motivate job seekers to apply for positions. This is advantageous to the workers.

2. Higher Earnings
Workers working on an offshore rig earn more than those who work inland. An offshore oil rig job has a large pay package as due to the risk involved.

In the US, the wage earned at the entry level ranges between $50,000 to $80,000 annually. There is generally more risk involved when you are working on an offshore oil rig.

This is due to the risk involved when working on an offshore oil rig as well as harsh conditions as the oil rigs are found in the open ocean. There is also the risk of death hence the need to pay high in order to attract workers.

3. Provision of Facilities
The workers working on an oil rig also benefit from free accommodation, feeding, health and leisure activities. There are also people who assist the workers with laundry services as well as maid services.

4. Enough time to rest
The workers working on an offshore rig also benefit from ample resting time as they work only for 6 months annually.


Despite the advantages above, there are also some disadvantages of living on an oil rig. They are as follows..

1. High Risk
There is a high level of risks which may even lead to death when living on an oil rig. This is due to the harsh climatic conditions under which the workers work as well as the hostile nature of the operations carried out.

There is the operation of dangerous machinery as well as the burning of flammable fluids in order to separate the fluid from poisonous sulfide. All this involves a lot of risks.

If you want to read about one of the biggest dangers on an offshore oil rig, check out my article on well-blowouts.

The most infamous disaster on an offshore oil rig was, of course, the BP oil spill.

2. Homesickness
This is also a very significant disadvantage of living on an oil rig. This is because you will be separated from your family for a long time and won’t even have the chance to visit because the oil rigs are built far into the open ocean.

This will give you a feeling of homesickness which may even affect the quality of the tasks you are signed to carry out.
Life on an oil rig can be very exciting as seen above though it has its setbacks.

In order to prepare yourself for an offshore oil rig job, it is essential that you know the nature of life on an oil rig as well as the advantages and disadvantages. This will let you attain a level of preparedness as you know what you are moving into.

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