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Roughnecks

In Allan Anderson’s book Roughnecks and Wildcatters, one interview relates the origins of the name roughneck:

The name "roughneck" is derived from the fact that the men who worked on the rigs had to bend their head backwards to look in the air a lot. They'd watch their traveling blocks up there so that when the elevators came in front of them they could snap them back on the drill pipe. Because of looking up a lot, you'd develop pretty good wrinkles in the back of your neck, and consequently the name roughneck was developed.I don't know where it started, but that's certainly the development of the expression in the oilfields.

From: Anderson, Allan. Roughnecks and Wildcatters. Canada: Macmillian Publishing, 1981. 31.

The roughneck’s job is very physical as it involves heavy lifting and lots of travel. On the drill site, the roughneck's primary job is to connect and disconnect pipe using tongs, and to collect core and cutting samples. The position also requires the general upkeep of the rig floor, and assisting the Motor Hand and other workers when necessary. The labour can be made even more difficult for the roughneck by having to work in all types of geographic locations, including on land or on ocean, and in all weather.

A roughneck is only one position on a drilling crew. Many roughnecks, also called floor or lease hands, start out doing general work involving the loading and unloading of trucks, driving vehicles, and keeping the worksite clean. A floor hand can also be promoted to motor hand, one who is responsible for maintenance and operation of the motors on the rig. From this position the worker can be promoted to a derrick hand. Again, this job increases in skill levels needed. The derrick hand guides the drill pipe in and out of the elevators, steadying the pipe from the top while it is connected or disconnected at the bottom. Another responsibility is to maintain fluid pumps, the circulation system, and the drilling fluid itself. The driller is the person who does what the name suggests: running the drilling rig. They move, position, and set up the rig at the correct location, and then dismantle the rig. They also have to manage the other workers, hold and conduct safety meetings, and are responsible for the rig and the personnel.

Accountable for every aspect on the rig and the operations, the rig manager's work is a less physically demanding job than some, but involves a high degree of commitment and stress. Also called the tool push, they are responsible for the safety of all workers. With management of the rig, they are in charge of making sure the rig complies with all environmental and government regulations. Also, they are responsible for the rigs' production costs and supervising the rig construction. To be a tool push requires years of work experience on rigs. They work their way up through the various jobs and know how everything runs on a rig. With all of these positions, there is a level of danger, but the work can be exciting and interesting.

 

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