What does a rig floorhand do?

edited February 2018 in Oil & Gas (Upstream)

I've been working in retail, and don't have much in the way of qualifications or options. A few of my buddies work physical jobs and they seem to be doing OK financially. Someone suggested that I look for work as a floorhand, and then there will be a good salary, and opportunities to work my way up through the ranks.

I have a few questions for the community. What does the job entail? Do I need certain training or qualifications, or can I learn on the job? What would a typical workday look like? Is it really hard work? How much does a floorhand make?

Thanks in advance, and I love the automatic profile picture!


  • edited February 2018

    Hi Bryce and welcome to our community.

    You might already know a little about the job, once I tell you that floorhand is another name for a roughneck. Considering that your profile says that you live in Houston, this might be a familiar name. Floorhand also gets abbreviated simply to 'hand' which is a common expression.

    I'd be glad to cover all of your questions.

    What does the job entail?

    A floorhand is a foundational employee that works on the derrick floor, handling all of the physically tough jobs. If you choose this career, duties include assisting the rest of the crew in any way that they ask. The most common ask will be from toolpushers or drillers, but you you'll occasionally assist with logging, cementing, testing or coring.

    A typical day will include the lifting and carrying of heavy loads such as racking pipes, cleaning the rig, tools and equipment, and other odd jobs around the rig. Basically, it's manual labor, but more varied than many other career alternatives.

    After a while you'll have a chance to climb the mast as a 'monkey man'. Other varied tasks might include helping with drill pipe stands, then assisting with connections and disconnections and the drill pipe is tripped in and out of the hole.

    Whilst physically challenging, the work of a floorhand is more varied and exciting than many other similar career alternatives.

    Do I need certain training or qualifications, or can I learn on the job?

    A floorhand position is an entry level rig job that usually does not require a college degree. You'll need to be over 18 years old, physically fit, and of good intelligence since the rig can be a dangerous place.

    You'll get plenty of training and guidance from your first employer, including health, safety and environment (HSE) training. Some companies will want you to complete a formal training course, others will train you on the job. Either way, you'll be getting paid, and receive vital experience as you learn.

    What would a typical workday look like?

    I've covered much of this in the 'what does the job entail' answer, but a better question might be about how your work week or month might look. A floorhand or roughneck will be assigned shifts and need to work at the same times as the rest of the drilling crew and rig personnel. Work rotations and schedules are notoriously tough in the exploration and production (E&P) sector of the oil and gas industry.

    The shifts will vary company to company and rig to rig. Typical shifts might involve 6/2, 12/4, 7/7, 14/14, 28/28 (days on/days off). Formal ideas about relaxing in the evening, public holidays, or having a nice weekend will be soon forgotten as the challenge of life on the rig takes over.

    The work hours on an individual day, or hitch can get a little extreme. Oil rigs are very expensive to run, and sometimes there are extra challenges bought on by the weather, equipment or technical difficulties. A rig crew all pulls together and does what needs to be done. Clock watchers won't do well, but don't worry, this isn't quite Navy Seal training either!

    Is it really hard work?

    Yes, but you'll get used to it, and many people love the sense of satisfaction gained through hard work.

    How much does a floorhand make?

    Salaries and compensation will vary depending on experience. Also, an offshore floorhand will tend to make more than an onshore one partly because more experienced ones are hired due to the extra challenges.

    A typical starting pay will be over $20 per hour, rising up to and over $30 depending on experience and location.

    The best floorhands are likely to climb the ladder and end up as derrick operators or supervisors.

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