Working on a Drilling Rig
Before starting a career in the oilfield service industry, a drilling rig employee should be:
Legally eligible to work in Canada
At least 18 years of age
Possess a valid driver’s license
You should plan on having most of the items below on your first day of work. Some of these items are provided by your employer, depending on the company. In your interview, it’s a good idea to ask what gear you will be expected to have.
CSA approved steel toed boots
ANSI approved hard hat
Warm winter clothes for under your coveralls
Although CAODC has a recommended wage schedule, drilling rig wages are set by individual companies. Additionally, each company will pay their employees according to company policies. The most common pay schedule is every two weeks.
Non-Camp Work. When the rig is operating near a town, crews typically stay in hotels and receive a per diem for food and accommodation.
Work Camps. Work camps offer both room and board, paid for by the company.
Drilling rig employees will usually work overtime, and many contractors will offer benefits packages.
Rig Crew & Schedule
Most drilling rig crews have six positions: Rig Manager (Tool Push), Driller, Derrickhand, Motorhand, Floorhand, and Leasehand.
Drilling rigs typically operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week. To do so, most rigs have two or three crews that work 12 hour shifts on schedules offsetting one another. Day and night crews will alternate so each crew has a chance to work days and nights. Most crews will work 14 days straight with a week off in-between “hitches”.
As a new employee, your job will likely involve the tasks below:
Driving the crew truck
Cleaning of the rig and the surrounding area
Assist with “Rig Up” and “Rig Out” (moving the rig)
Following all company safety regulations
Working on the rig floor and handling drill pipe
Assisting other crew members with their tasks
To work on a drilling rig, you must be able to get to and from location. While not mandatory, having reliable transportation is considered an asset.
If you are new to the drilling industry, you will receive the necessary training upon hiring. If you are looking for a competitive advantage in getting a job, you may want to consider taking some of the training listed below before applying.
Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG)
In Canada, work in the oil and gas services industry is seasonal. Rig equipment is heavy, and therefore can only move when the ground is solid. Most wells are drilled or serviced in the winter or summer when the ground is either frozen or dry and provides a solid base. During the shoulder seasons, the ground and most roads can be severely damaged if heavy equipment runs over top.
For this reason, road bans are issued to prevent heavy equipment from operating in certain areas. This is important because rig employees should be prepared to have an extended period of time off during break-up. It is important to either save enough money to last through the break, or have another job to get you through the period (usually between one and four months).
Some companies will have maintenance opportunities for rig workers, or if you are eligible to work in another country, there may be opportunities abroad during Canadian break-up. Finally, many employees may qualify for employment insurance benefits.
HOW TO APPLY FOR A JOB ON A DRILLING RIG
This industry is seasonal and cyclical.
It’s seasonal because rigs are busiest in the winter. How long cold weather hangs on in any given year is important to a rig crew. In the spring, thawing roads and soft fields make it difficult to move equipment, which means rigs are shut down while the industry waits for the ground to dry out.
Rig work is also affected by the cyclical trading of oil and gas on the stock market. When these commodities are priced higher, more rigs go to work; when oil and gas have a low price, rigs are less active.
What does this mean for your job application?
The best time to inquire about job opportunities is right before peak rig activity—typically in September when the industry is seeking new applicants to fill crew vacancies. Also, if commodity prices are strong, there will be more demand for rigs no matter what time of year it is.
How do I apply for a job?
Most drilling and well servicing companies have human resource contacts in their field offices. The best place to start is looking at a company's website, and contacting them directly. You will find links to our members' websites below.