The Mystery behind the Culture of an Oil and Gas Worker Revealed

oil rig culture

The oil and gas sector remains a critical Unit of the US and the world as a whole. It does not only provide revenue to the governments but millions of jobs to the public that works in the drilling, extractions, and support subsectors. Other than being one of the leading employers in North America, it continues to show higher growth regarding the volume and job creation. Since 2007 to 2012, the private sector saw an increase of over one million jobs with the oil and gas subsector attaining a 40% growth in employment.

More than half of the employees in the industry serves in the support activities, which accounts for increased growth. When it comes to social orientation, the working environments have had a significant impact on the kind of traits engulfing a given industry. Often, workers from different sectors portray varying characteristics that are common with colleagues in various factories. A glimpse at the life of a worker in the oil and gas industry shows the following:

Exposure to hazardous working environment

Other than offer some of the most lucrative jobs in the private sector, the industry fatality rates have risen five times above the national average, making it the most dangerous. For this reason, the different state agencies in the energy sector have moved into enact regulations aimed at improving the situation for the workers. Nonetheless, the controls are not sufficient to assure perfect working conditions as it’s within the intrinsic feature of the product to cause danger at the slightest exposure.

In 2014 alone, the oil and gas industry counted for more than 79% of all fatalities that occurred across the mining sector. Unlike the mining workers, the oil and gas staff are excluded from the MSHA protection and only benefits from the regulations effected by the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration, tasked with controlling the sector.

From fires to explosions, vehicle collisions falls, ergonomic risks, traps and exposure to dangerous machines and products, the industry needs a comprehensive and intensive approach to curbing the menace. It starts with equipping the employees with the right protective attire and working tools to minimize the exposure and maintaining safe working platforms to reduce slips and falls. Behavioral safety awareness comes in handy in making the procedures a working culture as opposed to a requirement, something the workers are willing to drive without fear of reprimand.

While most companies claim to have fulfilled most of OSHA regulations, it’s hard to wish away the likelihood of accidents happening. In fact, some are inevitable owing to the nature of the product and the procedures involved. Most explosions and accidents come from leaking pipes and faulty apparatus that might not be predictable. In addition to accident-free stations, improving workers safety awareness lowers the incidents to a large extent. 

The slang

In modern working, it’s easy to isolate people based on the industry they work. Every industry comes with particular terms whose meaning is only understood by those that work in that sector. While some come from the discipline within which the workers trained, some have evolved from behavioral and operational observations. Some of these terms are used beyond the workplaces where colleagues can communicate without you getting a glimpse of the conversation. While some may be familiar, they could be used to mean something different in their context leaving you out of the talk. Some of the terms in their slang include:

• Blowout: refers to an instant and spontaneous release of underground pressure from oil wells

• Cold event: part of the ocean floor where the seepage of hydrogen sulfide and methane occurs.

Chainhand is a highly skilled and experienced staff with capacity to maintain the bulk of the rig

• Doodlebugger: a seismic worker that conducts Seismic interviews in the field

• Hand: a rig employee that can work without supervision

• Fish: objects that fall into the hole

• Intelligent well: a well with monitoring and completion equipment hence can be adjusted to increase production.

• Underbalanced: the state in which the drilling fluid is not enough to contain underground pressures

Behavorial safety awareness

With numerous investments to enhance worker safety, most companies have embarked on rigorous campaigns to improve workers participations in the drive. For this reason, various training and incentives have been carried out across different departments with some employing safety experts to manage the issues. With most spending the bulk of their time at the workplace, they become hypersensitive to security matters. The level of risk associated with drilling and refining calls the need for operators to adhere to protective measures available.

In most instances, most workers fail to realize when they apply similar approaches out of their work place. Safety issues are likely to occur in their discussions even in issues that do not pose similar levels of risk as their workplaces. As a common practice, some are keen to put on protective garments when carrying out activities at home.

Group conduct

When it comes to workers organization, oil, and gas industry employees remains one of the most organized in the private sector. Some attribute it to the challenging working environments while some consider the mode of operations as the basis for their unity. Nonetheless, workers unions in this sector seem to have gained mileage concerning negotiating for better-working terms for their members. It’s common for the employees to keep ties with their industry colleagues than those from other subsectors.

On the other hand, some members of public and private entities have registered discontent with the manner in which some of the teams’ conduct. Just recently, a Lerwick Chippie imposed restrictions on the number of workers from the sector that will be allowed through the door at any given moment. In a notice, the shop restricted employees from companies among them Petrofac for “struggling to behave like humans”.

Fear of reporting incidences

Almost every enterprise in the oil and gas industry has implemented effective reporting mechanisms to enhance fast response to incidents. However, it’s the level of usage by the employees that continues to draw concerns among employers as they try to reduce accidents and the costs associated. A report from the Scottish Trades Union cited the fear of redundancy as the barring factors for employees to report real and potential incidences.

Often employees tend to empathize with their colleagues and hence are likely to avoid instances

where they can lose their jobs. Having incurred huge sums of money on compensating injured victims, most companies have changed their approach to safety to encourage reporting. Anonymous reporting seemed to be a suitable solution for those that do not wish to be identified. Most are yet to accrue tangible results as most employees fear taking responsibility that could cut their income stream.


Work life balance


Imagine working for eight hours, five days a week, with no emergency calls at night or during the holiday? Imagine spending a great deal of your time with family and friends in the evening after work? That is not the case for the oil and gas industry employees as most jobs demand high levels of commitment and fast response when issues arise. A typical day in an oil rig lasts for 12 hours with possible extensions if the need arises.

Based on the rig schedule, they are likely to start anytime with a single sting going for about 14 days. Often, overseas workers prefer working for longer stints to reduce travel frequency and enjoy longer break periods. While the breaks seem sufficient to promote work-life balance, irregular working schedules and overtime payments often invade on the balance. Also, most dread the stressful working conditions such as limited working space in offshore rigs and shared accommodation in the rigs.

Michael Snyder
Michael Snyder