Working conditions in this industry vary significantly by occupation. Roustabout and other construction and extraction occupations may involve rugged outdoor work in remote areas in all kinds of weather. For these jobs, physical strength and stamina are necessary. This work involves standing for long periods, lifting moderately heavy objects, and climbing and stooping to work with tools that often are oily and dirty. Executives generally work in office settings, as do most administrators and clerical workers. Geologists, engineers, and managers may split their time between the office and the jobsites, particularly while involved in exploration work.
Only 1 employee in 12 works fewer than 35 hours a week, because opportunities for part-time work are rare. In fact, a higher percentage of workers work overtime in this industry than in all industries combined. The average nonsupervisory worker worked 39.5 hours per week in 2002, compared with 33.9 hours for all nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls.
Oil and gas well drilling and servicing can be hazardous. However, in 2002 the rate of work-related injury and illness in the oil and gas extraction industry, as a whole, was 3.4 per 100 full-time workers, somewhat lower than the 5.3 for the entire private sector. The rate for workers in the oil and gas field services segment, 4.5 per 100 full-time workers, was almost 3 times higher than that for workers in the crude petroleum and natural gas segment, which was only 1.6. However, improvements in drilling technology and oil rig operations, such as remote-controlled drills, have led to fewer injuries.
Drilling rigs operate continuously. On land, drilling crews usually work 6 days, 8 hours a day, and then have a few days off. In offshore operations, workers can work 14 days, 12 hours a day, and then have 14 days off. If the offshore rig is located far from the coast, drilling crew members live on ships anchored nearby or in facilities on the platform itself. Workers on offshore rigs are always evacuated in the event of a storm. Most workers in oil and gas well operations and maintenance or in natural gas processing work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Many oilfield workers are away from home for weeks or months at a time. Exploration field personnel and drilling workers frequently move from place to place as work at a particular field is completed. In contrast, well operation and maintenance workers and natural gas processing workers usually remain in the same location for extended periods.