Training New Hands for Drilling Jobs
I recently took a job for an old friend, and one of the best drillers I’ve ever known. He called me about a well that his company had bid, and received, but were short-handed on. He wanted me to go get the job started until they could get some experienced hands up there. I decided to do it for a couple reasons. First, it was an interesting job, requiring several different drilling methods on the same hole. I like a challenge. Second, work has been pretty slow since the oilfield went through its latest inevitable bust. Lottie was getting pretty tired of me sitting around, and had threatened to get me a job as a Walmart greeter just to get me out of the house. The job was less than 200 miles from the house, which was closer to home than I have worked in years, so I moved my trailer over there and the adventure began.
The job began very slowly because the company was swamped with work and short of equipment. We had the rig in a lay-down yard near the job and they borrowed, and stole, equipment from other rigs to get me enough equipment to rig up. Turns out to be a good thing, though. Since the rig had been stacked for two years, everything on it was either missing or broken. We spent two weeks fixing or replacing things that should have been there. This gave me time to get to know my new crew.
The company assured me that I would have one experienced hand and two trainees. Considering the complexity of the job, I needed someone experienced to take care of the mud system, and keep the “backyard” going so I could drill. I told them that there were a lot of very experienced hands looking for work, but they cost money. “Good hands ain’t cheap, and cheap hands ain’t good” was how I put it. Turns out they didn’t want to pay much, so all my oilfield friends laughed at me, and I got the following: My lead hand had been on every rig in the company, once. I think he must be related to somebody. In the first two weeks, he ran equipment out of fuel, blew up a pump engine because he left the oil filler cap off, backed into a car at the motel, tore the clutch out of his truck, etc., but always had an excuse. The other two were young, hardworking and very willing to learn, but totally inexperienced. OK, I get that. We all started sometime. We had school every day, and I tried to explain everything I could about what we were doing, why, and what we would do next, etc.
New hands don’t come equipped with all the knowledge we might want. It is up to us to take the time, and have the patience to teach them what they need to do a good job and stay safe.
As I was explaining what we were going to do, I noticed a sort-of deer-in-the-headlights, glazed look from time to time. I realized that we use a lot of technical terms in the drilling industry that are not common outside, so I started explaining what everything is called, and why. That went pretty well until I realized that some of the things that every young hand needs to bring to the plate were woefully missing. Such as “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey,” or how to tie a knot, or rig a chain. Turns out they had never had electric trains or erector sets, or been in the Boy Scouts. I backed up to pretty basic instruction about then. My boss asked me how it was going, knowing full well what I was dealing with. I told him I was gonna teach ‘em to color, but they ate the crayons. It seems that the newest generation of roughnecks just doesn’t have the same skill set that a young farm boy had when I was coming up.
We eventually got a good oilfield driller, able to run and manage the rig, and train the crew. He walked on, took over, and things started to pick up. The crew was looking pretty good now, and the rig was finally in decent shape, so I called a hot-shot, moved my shack, and came home. The point is, new hands don’t come equipped with all the knowledge we might want. It is up to us to take the time, and have the patience to teach them what they need to do a good job and stay safe.
For more Wayne Nash columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/wayne