Life on a UK Offshore Oil Rig: Challenges, Rewards, and Onsite Facilities


Working on a windowless rig in the middle of the sea might seem like an unconventional choice, but for the approximately 26,000 people employed in the UK offshore oil and gas industry, it's an attractive and rewarding prospect. Positioned mainly off the east coast of England and Scotland, these rigs offer employment opportunities due to a skills shortage and an ageing workforce. In this article, we'll delve into the unique lifestyle on a rig, exploring the journey, work patterns, living conditions, communication challenges, and the financial rewards associated with this industry.

Getting There:

Embarking on a career on an offshore oil rig begins with rigorous offshore survival and emergency training, often spanning a three-day course. This preparation is vital to equip workers for the hazardous conditions they will face. Access to the rig is exclusively via a 45-60 minute helicopter ride, providing a breathtaking aerial view of the open seas and the rig itself.

Work Patterns:

Rigs operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, making for a demanding work environment. The standard work pattern involves a two-week-on, two-week-off rotation, with some higher-level positions working on a two-week-on, three-week-off schedule. Shifts typically span 12 hours on duty followed by 12 hours off. While the two weeks off each month may sound appealing, the cumulative working hours often exceed those of a traditional 9-5 job, adding up to around 400 additional hours over the course of a year.

Living Conditions:

Life on a rig involves sharing close quarters with around 200 colleagues, creating an environment that combines aspects of a hotel and an office. Cabins are typically shared, accommodating 2-4 individuals, with shared bathrooms for each set of cabins. Daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning are taken care of, thanks to onboard facilities. Many modern rigs are equipped with recreational areas, including games rooms, gyms, and cinemas, providing some relief during downtime.

Onsite Gym Facilities:

One notable feature on some offshore oil rigs is the presence of onsite gyms. Recognising the importance of physical well-being, these gyms offer a space for rig workers to engage in regular exercise. Equipped with essential fitness equipment, these facilities contribute to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. Exercise can be a crucial aspect of coping with the demanding nature of rig work, providing an outlet for stress relief and promoting overall well-being.

Contacting Home:

Communication with family and friends has evolved significantly over the years. In the past, workers could only make a brief weekly phone call lasting six minutes. Nowadays, most rigs are equipped with wifi, allowing workers to use Skype, access social media, and send emails using tablets and laptops. However, mobile phones are often prohibited, and phone signal can be scarce, creating a sense of isolation despite the technological advancements.

Financial Rewards:

For those who can endure the separation from family and friends, possess the right attitude for communal living, and have the requisite skills for the job, the financial rewards are substantial. Graduate positions typically commence around £30,000, with the average wage reaching £65,000 – more than double the national average. This level of compensation reflects the challenging nature of the work and the industry's recognition of the skills and dedication required.


Working on a UK offshore oil rig is undoubtedly a unique experience, combining challenges and rewards in equal measure. The demanding work patterns, shared living conditions, and isolation from loved ones are balanced by financial incentives, modern amenities, and the potential for personal and professional growth. The presence of onsite facilities, such as gyms, highlights the industry's commitment to the well-being of its workforce. As individuals consider a career in this field, understanding the intricacies of life on a rig becomes crucial in making an informed decision about embarking on this distinctive and rewarding journey.

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