by Justyn and Jamie



The term Roughneck is a slang term for an unskilled or slightly-skilled labourer. The term applies across a number of industries, but by the 1930s it was most commonly associated with oil rigs. In the United Kingdome's oil industry roughneck specifically meant those who worked on the drill floor of a drilling rig handling specialised drilling equipment for drilling and pressure controls.

In practice, these workers ranged from unskilled to highly skilled, depending subjectively on the individual worker's aptitude and experience.


Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
Working hours on rigs and platforms are normally 12 hours on and 12 hours off continuously for two or three weeks, followed by an equal amount of rest period at home. The work is hard and physical, in all types of weather. Offshore workers live closely together and have to co-operate in a group.

Roughnecks need:

  • good practical hand skills
  • to be strong and physically fit
  • to be prepared to work away from home
  • to enjoy working outdoor

Different Duties

In oil fields, a roughneck's duties can include anything involved with connecting pipe down the well bore, as well as general work around a rig. The crew of a land-based oil rig can be further divided into several positions, including "Toolpusher", "Driller", "Derrickhand", "Motorman", "Boilerman", "Leadhand", "Roustabout" and Ginsel, all of which have their own respRoughneck_022.jpgective duties:

Toolpusher: The highest position at the drilling location, responsible for every crew. He usually stays on location for a few days at a time during crucial operations, whereas individual drilling crews work only eight or 12-hour tours (shifts).

roughneck_preview.jpgDriller: The head of an individual crew, responsible for controlling a rig's machinery during drilling, as well as most other rig operations.

Derrickhand/Derrick-man: Responsible for the drilling mud, the mud pits where drilling fluids are circulated around the system, and the mud pump. Drilling mud is used to lubricate the well hole, among other things.

Motorman/Motorhand: Responsible for maintenance of various engines, water pumps, water lines, steam lines, boilers and other machinery incorporated into the rig.

Boilerman: Prior to the mid-20th century when most rigs were steam-powered, the boilerman was responsible for the boilers. The boilerman also functioned as the laundryman, steam-cleaning the last crew's greasy work clothes in the "blow barrel" and then hanging them up to dry in the warm air near the boilers. This role has become obsoleten the modern era.

Leadhand: Usually the lowest member of the drilling crew, those in this position are nicknamed "worm".

Roustabouts/Leasehands: On bigger rigs and offshore rigs, a roustabout is someone who does most of the painting and cleaning so roughnecks can take care of other work.

Ginsel: The worm's helper. This is also a derogatory insult among roughnecks.