A roustabout in the oil and gas industry is someone who is capable of doing various manual labor tasks, with hand or power tools. These entry level workers are also sometimes referred to as ‘roughnecks’, although a roughneck can be considered as a slightly more advanced position than the roustabout. They are the people on the rigs or oil sites who receive the lower salaries, however, the money offered may still be considered as sufficient for many who need employment.
Much of a roustabout’s work is to help maintain the general condition of the oil rig so that it can continue to perform in an efficient manner. The workers may be required to assist with cleaning oil spills, assembling mechanical apparatus, moving pipes to and from trucks, repair machinery, clear vegetation and make concrete foundations for derricks, both of the wooden and steel variety. Roustabouts may also provide assistance to skilled workers, such as electricians, mechanics or welders.
To become a roustabout, you should be physically and mentally strong. The work is tough, and it can be dangerous at times, therefore you should be focused when you are working. A college education is not always necessary for employment, however, knowledge or experience in the following areas will be advantageous: hydraulic and electronic equipment, and machining and fabrication. Good communication skills are important, and the individual must be able to work in a team environment.
Most roustabouts employed have only a high school diploma, while a smaller percentage of those employed have some college education. Most important is the willingness to work hard. Flexibility may also be required concerning location of work and assigned shifts.
The various tasks of a roustabout differ in importance. The assembling or taking apart of mechanical equipment, as well as the installation of pipe sections and the inspection of equipment are considered as important tasks. The physical activity performed by roustabouts is also essential to operations, such as moving heavy items, putting up scaffolding and the digging of foundation holes.
The salaries of roustabouts vary. There are entry-level positions and positions that are filled by more experienced workers, as well as positions that fall in between these two categories. For an entry-level position, a worker can expect to receive approximately $10 per hour, or just over $20,000 annually. The higher salaries offered are between $30,000 and $40,000 per year.
There have been statistics recorded for roustabout employment over the years. Approximately 32,000 people were employed in 2006, and this number is expected to increase in future years. By 2016, over 34,000 people are expected to be working as roustabouts on oil rigs or on oil fields.
There are companies that help individuals to find roustabout work, as well as societies that provide information to those employed. The ASPOE (American Society of Petroleum Operating Engineers) is one of these societies keeping employees up to date with oil field related practices. They may use conferences, websites, workshops and e-mails to convey new information.