In this blog article, we look at what it’s like to live and work on an offshore oil or gas rig, a feature of many oil and gas jobs. Although the majority of jobs in oil and gas are onshore, there are still many people in the industry that work on rigs out at sea. If you’re looking to enter the industry, or you work onshore and want to find out more about what it’s like to work offshore, then read on.
Getting to work and back isn’t like your usual commute. A helicopter is used to transfer you from the shore to the rig. You will be required to to complete extensive sea survival training prior to the flight, and wear immersion suits and buoyancy aids once on the helicopter as part of the health and safety procedures. Although initially exciting and perhaps daunting, many people report that it becomes second nature after the first few flights.
The usual working shift is 12 hours ‘on’ and 12 hours ‘off’, and many shift patterns are a mixture of both day and night. Although dependent on your role, many workers spend 2-3 weeks working off-shore and 2-3 weeks at home. Many offshore jobs overseas involve longer working patterns, for example 5-6 weeks working off-shore but then the time off is also more prolonged.
This is one of the hardest parts about working off-shore, as many workers spend roughly half the year away from their families and friends. The shift cycle also means that important occasions such as birthdays and funerals are easily missed.
Pay varies widely depending on experience, the role, the company you work for, and the financial health of the oil market at the time. However, the money is usually better than salaries of other industries due to a combination of the specialised skills required, the risks of working on a rig, and the sacrifices made in terms of hours and not seeing family. Rigzone’s salary survey indicates that the average salary for all types of positions worldwide in 2016 is $93,000 per annum.
Accommodation on-board a rig has improved considerably in recent years. Some set-ups can be compared to that of a dormitory with 4-8 people often sharing a room with bunk beds, and some rigs offer private rooms. Dormitories create a very close relationship between workers with some describing their roommates as a “second family”.
Calling home is easy by using satellite phones as there is rarely conventional mobile phone signal that far out at sea. However, large oil rigs have internet connection which allows for features such as Skype and instant messenger, allowing easier communication to friends and family.
As employers realise the strains that working off-shore can bring, all off-shore rigs have good recreational facilities to keep on-board staff entertained when not on shift. For example, small movie theatres, pool tables, air hockey, large screen T.V’s and video game consoles (where competitive tournaments often arise!). However, with the addition of WiFi and the prevalence of tablets and other devices, staff are increasingly providing their own entertainment as well.
Most off-shore installations have self-service style canteens with a wide variety of food selections, including fresh food such as salad and fresh meats, which are delivered to the rig via helicopter or boat. Each off-shore rig has a dedicated team of kitchen staff who prepare high quality food around the clock.
All employees must take part in a medical examination to make sure they are suitable for work on an off-shore rig. There are also first aiders and medicinal personnel on-board and helicopters are also on standby for quick medical evacuations from the oil rig to the shore if necessary.
Smoking on an off-shore rig is only allowed in designated areas. No source of ignition is allowed upon the installation but matches are supplied at the designated smoking areas.
Alcohol and all non-prescription drugs are completely banned from all installations and possession of these can lead to termination of the employee. Most companies also have random drug tests.
If you’re interested in either offshore or onshore roles in the industry, then check out our oil and gas jobs.