What Is a Roustabout?
Roustabouts are workers who focus on making sure oil and gas rigs are running safely and as expected. They are essentially the “boots on the ground,” responsible for making sure oil wells are operating efficiently. As a result, a roustabout’s duties are often flexible and varied, ranging from sweeping rig floors to handling dangerous chemicals. Some common duties include maintaining and repairing oil wellheads, lead lines, and saltwater disposal pumps.
The tasks of a roustabout depend on what work is needed at a drilling site during their shift. Duties of roustabouts may include:
- Cleaning up work sites
- Setting up oil wellheads
- Unloading and installing equipment
- Repairing pumps, tools, and other equipment
- Performing maintenance on tools
Working as a roustabout requires strength and stamina, as well as the ability to work well in a team. The work is often carried out in challenging conditions, including extreme weather and remote locations, and usually involves long hours and shift patterns. Despite the demanding nature of the job, it can be a valuable starting point for a career in oil and gas.
Are Roustabouts the Same as Roughnecks?
The terms roustabout and roughneck originated from 19th-century traveling circuses. At the time, the words were used interchangeably to describe workers who performed hard manual labor. Around the 1970s, the terms diversified to have different meanings within the oil and gas industry.
Roustabouts handle many of the physical tasks at drilling sites. A roughneck is generally someone who works on the rig floor and handles equipment specific to drilling. Essentially, a roustabout does the work that ensures roughnecks can carry out their duties. Often, becoming a roustabout is a person’s first step to being a roughneck.
Does Being a Roustabout Require Going to School?
Being a roustabout is a job that most learn with hands-on experience. In some instances, a person might serve an apprenticeship before becoming a full-time roustabout. However, some vocational schools do offer courses that focus on training roustabouts at an accelerated pace. This option is great for those who wish to be as prepared as possible before starting their new career, but it is not necessarily a requirement.
Tools Used by Roustabouts
Like any job, roustabouts have a set of tools they’ll rely on each shift. Roustabout tools include basic personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, earmuffs, and boots. Other tools used by roustabouts include hoists, safety harnesses, power tools, screwdrivers, hammers, sanders, and oxygen gas analyzers. Additionally, a roustabout will likely use computer programs to write reports, manage projects, and log their work.
What Being a Roustabout Means for Oil & Gas Workers
Roustabout is an official rank classification on an oil rig. The name signifies that the worker is new and the lowest-ranking type of worker. Most roustabouts are intended to do jobs that require little training, but as their experience grows, so does their ability to handle dangerous duties. Unfortunately, their pay does not reflect the danger of the job.
CareerCast did a job study on the American workforce in 2009 and 2011. It reviewed jobs based on five criteria: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands, and stress. Out of 200 jobs, being a roustabout was listed as the worst.
However, many roustabouts find the work fulfilling and challenging in unique ways. Unfortunately, those challenges can turn deadly under the wrong circumstances. Roustabouts face slip and fall accidents, precarious heights, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and frequent exposure to dangerous machines on a regular basis. One study concluded that roustabouts make up 14% of all injuries involving oil services.
For more information and to schedule a free consultation of a case involving any type of accident or injury as a roustabout, contact Arnold & Itkin.