The man in the photo above is an oilfield derrickman. This is one of the world’s most demanding and physical jobs.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to work many stories above the ground, high up in the derrick or tower of an oil rig? The next time you fill up your tank with gas you might think of the tough people that do one of the hardest jobs there is. Over the years that I worked in the oil drilling industry I’ve met many individuals who loved the job of derrickman more than anything that they had ever done. The job of a derrickman or derrick man, is to physically handle lengths of drill pipe, known as “stands”, as they are stored in the derrick or lowered into the well as it is being drilled. The act of placing stands of drill pipe into storage slots in the derrick is commonly called “racking pipe”. To handle these heavy joints of drill pipe, one has to be physically strong in addition being unafraid of heights.
Derrickman jobs on oil rigs require strict attention to safety details and rules. A climbing harnesses must be worn and properly attached at all times when a derrickman is aloft on an oil rig. There have been many accidents over the years in which oilfield workers have lost their lives due to faulty safety gear (usually from lack of inspection and replacement), or because safety rules were violated. Derrickman jobs on oil rigs are relatively safe, if all of the rules are followed, but it is still a relatively dangerous job.
To become a derrickman on an oil rig you should try and get on in any kind of position that the drilling company is hiring for. This may mean you work as a “worm” for many months before working your way up to the point at which you are trusted with a more important job. Roughnecks often work 12 hour shifts, which are known in the industry as “tours” and which is commonly pronounced “towers”. Being up in a drilling rig’s derrick for many hours requires a special kind of endurance,not to mention a large bladder! If you don’t like hard work and working in all kinds of elements, this is not the job for you. I remember talking to a young derrickman on an oil rig in Texas just before he was about to go up top in subzero temperatures. He said it was just part of the job and for every bad day there were ten good ones and that he just loved being up in a place with such a great view.
Oilfield jobs pay well compared to other blue collar jobs. There is often plenty of overtime, medical and retirement benefits as well as per diem allowances. Meals are provided on offshore rigs and the food is often of excellent quality. The nature of modern drilling rig jobs is that they are becoming more and more technical as rigs become automated and more complex. Though a derrickman’s job on an oil rig may involve many hours of racking pipe up in the derrick, they are also required to do other jobs such as checking mud weight, assisting the rig crew do repairs and other jobs when not tripping pipe. Because of that many drilling companies are now hiring only persons with a high school diploma, GED or college. Having a strong technical and mechanical background is essential for modern oil rig jobs such as that of a derrick man. There is often a pre-employment drug screening for almost every kind of oil rig job and random testing is done by most large drilling companies.
For listings of derrick man jobs in the oil exploration industry try sites such as Texasoilfieldjob.com