Thinking about working offshore? Know someone who does and like to better understand their work conditions?

We talk to a North Sea oil worker, about what it’s really like to work on an oil rig.

Hi there, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

I understand you’refairly new to offshore work. How long have you worked offshore?

I’ve worked offshore for 20 months, so just over a year and a half.

Where have you been based during that time?

I’ve been working on the same jacket for the entire time, in the Jasmine field, which is about 150 miles off the coast of Aberdeen.

That’s pretty far out, how long does it take you to get out there?

Depending on the winds it takes about an hour and ten minutes by helicopter.

You mentioned winds, what’s the weather like out there?

It varies greatly.Some days are beautiful sunshine and flat calm; others are very windy and stormy. It can be really foggy during the summer months and extremely cold during the winter months.

That must make for tough working conditions some days.  Is your work area pretty exposed to the elements?

Where I work up on the drill floor is open to the rain but there are wind walls surrounding us to give some shelter. It’s still pretty open to the weather though.

Being so open, do you have a lot of warm gear to wear?

We have storm jackets for the wet and slicker suits for wet or muds. We are also are given fleeces and most guys wear thermals under their work clothes so you are usually pretty warm. A scarf or a balaclava is essential in the winter months.

You said you work on the drill floor. What is your current job role?

I’m a roughneck orfloor hand.

What does that involve?

I assist with the rigging up and rigging down of drilling tools, maintaining tools and equipment on the drilling floor and generally assisting in drill floor operations.

Is that role you started in as an offshore worker?

No, I started off on the decks as a roustabout.

And what did that involve?

A roustabouts main dutiesinvolveassisting the crane ops by slinging up loads for lifting and banking as well as cleaning and general maintenance on the rig. It’s a good entry level job if you are new to the industry.

So how did you end up working offshore?

I was working as a labourer but I’d been trying to get offshore for a while. A fiend who already worked offshore told me about a referral scheme one of the big drilling companies was running and put my name forward. That got me a telephone interview and started the ball rolling with the application process.

What courses did you have to take before you went offshore?

I had to pass my BOSIET, MIST and BanksmanSlinger, as well as a medical.

So this must be quite a career change from working on a building site! Are you happy with the move you made to work offshore?

Yeah, I am.It’s a very exciting industry to work in. It offers great career progression, and although it’s really hard work out there the rewards are good. The time off is amazing and the salary’s not bad either!

You mention time off, what shift rotation do you work?

I work 3 on, 3 off – which is fairly common. Some companies offer 2 / 2, and even 2 on/ 3 off if you’re really lucky. That would be my goal.I’d love 3 on 2 off so I had more time at home with my little boy.

Having a little boy must make it hard to leave to go back. Is it hard being so isolated from friends and family when you’re out there?

When I go offshore, the first couple of days are always the worst. You feel a bit down and homesick but then after a few days you get into work mode and it doesn’t seem as bad being out there. There’s a lot of banter with the guys you work with which passes the time, and a real sense of comradeship as your all in the same boat. Everyone looks out for each other,it’s almost like your family away from home.  Going to the gym in your off time also helps take your mind off of it too.

Is there much to do in your down time?

Our rig is pretty limited. There’s a small gym, a sauna and tv room but other than that there’s not much else. Most of the guys either go the t.v. room or watch dvd’s in their room.  And there’s always the canteen. You’re never short of food and working so hard you burn it off quick so you eat twice as much as back home!

Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us!