Several key components allow an oil rig to run day and night. And they are not always the drill slips, the pumps and the pipes.

The crew of an oil rig, whether located on land or offshore, consists of floorhands, derrickhands, drillers, motormen and the rig manager.

The job of the derrickhand

If you are afraid of heights, this is not the job for you. The derrickhand handles the uppermost part of the drilling column which transmits fluid and torque to the drill bit. The process of “tripping pipe” allows for replacing bits and retrieving broken equipment.

Derrickhands sometimes must climb to heights of more than 100 feet and stand on a small platform to perform their job. The platform or “monkey board” is where the derrickhand works while tripping.

The fall

Some calculations suggest that falling from a height of 100 feet will not kill you depending on how you land. The problem with falling on a land-based oil rig is the objects that are in the path of your fall – pipes, people and sharp edges. Working on an offshore rig means the possibility of falling into the water.

Just the climb to the monkey board is risky. Ice, snow and oil stick to the rungs of the ladder making the ascent difficult. And offset derrick ladders mean you do not have a straight shot to the top. The derrickman is more susceptible to falls than any other incident on the rig.

The safety measures

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration 1910.140 addresses the specific standards for fall protection. The personal fall protection system is a system the employer uses to protect the crew member from falling or to safely stop the person if a fall occurs, while the personal fall arrest system is the equipment used to break the fall. An example of this is the Geronimo line.

Although safety measures are in place, accidents are inevitable on an oil rig. Workers may leave tools out, and no matter how much oil workers clear away, more will take its place. The consequences of a fall can mean serious injury, time off work and lost wages.