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Oil Rig Worker

Physical Danger

Time magazine named drilling for oil and gas one of the most dangerous professions in the United States. Anytime you mix 12-hour shifts with highly combustible materials on a platform covered with heavy machinery, you're going to have some safety issues. Workers take different shifts to keep the oil rig pumping oil 24/7. It's like the Denny’s of heavy industry.

It can be difficult working at night: The ocean is in all directions and the air is heavy from the smell of gas or oil. Each shift is punctuated with breaks to keep workers from becoming extremely fatigued. While workers work 7- to 14-day increments, it's a hard life trying to keep safe. Some of the necessary work such as painting requires workers to swing from ropes. It's as fun as a barrel of rabid monkeys.

While disasters are rare, they kill a lot of people when they do occur. To prevent people from burning up on an oil rig, oil companies provide watertight pods that are lowered into the ocean during an emergency. In April 2009, an oil rig explosion killed 11 people and created a large environmental catastrophe on the coast of Louisiana. It was called one of the worst man-made disasters since the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Trust us—no one was bragging about it.

Though major incidents rarely occur, small stuff happens everyday. For example, during the first five months of the year, The Minerals Management service reported 39 fires or explosions. Companies such as BP find themselves regularly in trouble over safety issues. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined BP more than $80 million over a Texas City incident.

Those working on oil rigs face other types of dangers such as hurricanes. Try being on a flammable platform while the sea is choppy. Forgetting to take a Dramamine will be the least of your worries. Also, the machines used to drill oil are complex. Imagine that. To keep people from causing bodily harm, petroleum companies require extensive training. Furthermore, the chief mate on an oil rig monitors safety hazards and is in charge of safety procedures. Despite all attempts to keep an oil rig accident free, it is nearly impossible for any company with the tightest safety procedures.