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How to become a

Roustabout/Roughneck

working offshore

What does a Roustabout/Roughneck do?

Roustabouts and roughnecks are based on offshore facilities such as oil or gas rigs or drilling platforms, working as part of a team of up to 20 people.

Roustabouts undertake labouring tasks that help to maintain the drilling area. These include:

  • cleaning, scraping and painting the deck, equipment and work areas
  • offloading supplies from boats and moving them to storage areas
  • moving supplies and equipment to the work site
  • using lifting gear and winches to load and stack equipment
  • general work in the pump room, for example helping to repair mud pumps
  • mixing and conditioning the lubricants ('drilling mud') for the drill bit.
Most of the work is carried out under the supervision of a lead roustabout.

Roughnecks carry out more skilled duties related to the actual drilling operation:
  • adding fresh lengths of drill pipe as the drill moves deeper into rock
  • inserting and extracting the whole drill
  • cleaning, maintaining and repairing the drilling equipment
  • using lifting gear, ropes and winches to carry out the above tasks.

Most of the work is carried out under supervision of an assistant driller. See Derrickman/Driller (Oil and Gas) for further details.

What's the working environment like working as a Roustabout/Roughneck?

Roustabouts and roughnecks work up to 12 hours a day on a 24-hour shift rota. They normally work on a rig or platform for two or three weeks, followed by two or three weeks’ rest period ashore.

Oil drilling rigs are small, mobile structures; production platforms are larger, accommodating 50 to 100 workers, where facilities include cabins, canteens, recreational facilities and offices. Alcohol and smoking are banned. Working on a rig or platform can be physically demanding, working in all types of weather, often very cold, and at heights.

Roustabouts and roughnecks are likely to wear protective clothing, which includes eye protection, harnesses, hard hats, gloves, ear defenders and thermal boiler suits.

What does it take to become a Roustabout/Roughneck?

To be a roustabout or roughneck you should:
  • have good practical skills
  • be able to live and work as a member of a team
  • be prepared to live and work away from home
  • be assertive and able to follow instructions
  • be aware of health and safety issues
  • be physically fit
  • be willing to learn
  • have basic computer skills for recording information.

Roustabout/Roughneck Career Opportunities

The UK offshore oil and gas industry is located mainly off the east coast of Scotland and England. There are also fields in the Irish Sea and west of the Shetland Islands. Many employers operate throughout the world, so it may be possible to work overseas.

Around 30,000 people work offshore on mobile drilling rigs, fixed production platforms or FPSOs (floating production, storage and offloading units). There is a high turnover of roustabouts, so opportunities for finding work are good.

Employers include: operating companies (usually oil companies), drilling companies, maintenance contractors, FPSO operators and specialist service companies (equipment suppliers, seismic firms and catering providers).

Roustabouts who show ability can become roughnecks after about six months. Further promotion is to derrickman/woman, assistant driller and driller. It is possible to become a driller within about five years.

Further Career Information

If you would like to know more about a career as an Roustabout/Roughneck related facts, statistics, articles and websites.