Derrickmen or women are crew members on offshore oil or gas rigs. They work on a platform attached to the derrick (mast), usually about 20-25 metres above the rig floor. The derrick or mast supports the rig’s drilling assembly. Derrickmen or women work under the supervision of the driller.
They are also called derrickhands.
You could be:
- looking after the pipe to which the oil drill is attached
- handling and stacking sections of the drill pipe
- operating the lifting equipment when the pipe is being run in or out of the drilling hole
- controlling the mud (the lubricant used for the drill bit) that is circulated down the drill pipe when drilling
- supervising the working of the mud pumps and mixing other necessary substances into the mud
- using gauges to measure mud density and regularly conducting viscosity tests
- maintaining the condition of the system that circulates the mud
- supervising the mud pump operators or floorhands
- maintaining the derrick.
- You would work on a rig or platform outdoors in conditions that can be very cold, wet, windy, noisy and dangerous.
- There are risks of injury from accidents, especially when working at heights, as you would be much of the time.
- You would normally work offshore for 2 or 3 weeks, followed by a 2 or 3 weeks’ rest period ashore. This will mean spending long periods away from your home and family.
- You cannot use mobile phones (there is often no signal) but there are pay phones and usually broadband internet access.
- When offshore, you would normally work a 12-hour shift, including rest and meal breaks, with 12 hours off duty.
- Employers provide free accommodation (usually shared cabins) and meals. There are usually good recreational facilities.
- Alcohol and smoking are banned on the rigs.
- You would wear protective and waterproof clothing. Employers provide all necessary safety equipment such as thermal suits, gloves, boots and a helmet.
- You have to fly by helicopter (usually a large 18-seater) to and from the rig or platform, in Scotland from Aberdeen.
The UK oil and gas industry is located mainly off the east coast of Scotland and England. But there are also fields west of Shetland and in the Irish Sea.
- You do not normally need formal qualifications for entry, but it can be useful to have some Standard grades.
- You must be at least 18 years of age.
- To work offshore, you must pass an offshore survival course such as the Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training Certificate (BOSIET). Contact Cogent for details. Some people complete the course at their own expense before looking for work. In other cases, some companies sponsor new employees through the course.
- Normally, you need previous experience of working offshore. Many entrants begin as roustabouts and work up to being a roughneck, then a derrickman or woman.
- You will need to be fit, as this job involves climbing, lifting and using heavy equipment.
- You have to pass a medical examination every 2 years which may include testing for substance abuse.
The employers in the industry include operating companies (usually oil companies) that hold exploration and production licences, drilling companies with contracts to do drilling work and a wide range of other major contractors and companies offering specialist technical services.
The main recruitment contacts in Scotland are in the Aberdeen area.
What Does It Take?
You need to have:
You need to be able to:
- good practical hand skills
- stamina and good physical fitness
- agility and a good head for heights
- a strong sense of responsibility
- an awareness of health and safety issues at all times
- a resilient nature.
- work outdoors in all weathers
- live on a rig or platform for long periods of time
- travel by helicopter to and from the rig or platform
- live and work as a member of a team
- observe regulations and follow instructions very carefully.
- Your training may start with a course leading to the offshore survival certificate, if you do not already hold this certificate.
- Otherwise, you may begin with induction training onshore (known as 'greenhand' training), covering information on the industry and the company, health and safety and skills training.
- You then do further on the job training offshore on the oil rig or platform.
- You may attend further short courses from time to time.
- You may be able to gain Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) in Offshore Deck Operations at Level 2.
- After sufficient experience, you could gain promotion to driller. This normally takes about 3-4 years.
- You may perhaps eventually be promoted to toolpusher or oil rig manager.
- Many of the large companies in the oil and gas industry operate throughout the world, so you may be able to work overseas.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual salaries may vary, depending on:
The starting salary for derrickmen or women is normally in the range of £28,000 to £30,000 per year. (In addition, employers provide accommodation and food, as well as warm and waterproof clothing.)
- where you work
- the size of the company or organisation you work for
- the demand for the job.
- Although some workers spend only a short time on the rigs, many others spend most of their careers - often more than 20 years - offshore.
- Most of the major oil and gas reserves in the North Sea have been worked, but new technology is allowing the exploitation of smaller and more marginal fields.
- It is anticipated that there will be work in the North Sea well into the foreseeable future - 30 years plus.
- There are also good opportunities for skilled and experienced workers in other parts of the world.
The following organisation(s) may be able to provide further information.
|Minicom / Textphone:
Cogent is the Sector Skills Council for the chemical, nuclear, oil and gas extraction, petroleum and polymer industries.
Sea Vision UK
30 Park Street
020 7417 2800
|Minicom / Textphone:
Sea Vision UK is a national campaign to raise awareness of the maritime sector in its widest sense, including relevant careers.