Well-paid roustabouts work long days, face dangers



As the natural gas industry expands throughout Ohio, it brings workers from across the country looking for their share of the profit. The News Outlet’s Christopher Kochera brings us the story of one of those workers.

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On a brisk March morning in a field of Route 172 in Lisbon, OH, the air is filled with the rumble of machinery and the smell of diesel fuel.

Workers scramble to move drilling equipment as 35-year-old Brian Rose of Hamilton prepares for a 13-hour day of backbreaking work, using his Dodge 4×4 as a mobile dressing room.

Rose is a roustabout, the low guy on the natural gas drilling totem pole responsible for general operations on a rig, such as the upkeep of containment, liners that keep contaminants from entering the ground.

I basically keep containment under control, and then while the drilling’s going on, I keep up with it.

His duties even include daily housekeeping.

If there’s any trash lying around I pick it up, I even walk the outer fence here and walk down the driveways and pick up trash that’s blowing around out here.

 It’s very labor intensive.

Tracee Joltes is the assistant director for workforce outreach at Eastern Gateway Community College.

These guys, you know, work in all weather and they’re the ones who climb around under the rigs, hook up hoses, clean tanks, and do whatever it is that needs to be done.

Eastern Gateway began roustabout-training courses in March 2012. The three-week long, hands-on classes are funded by a grant through the Department of Labor.

From the March class, we have a placement rate of about 70 percent. It all depends on who’s in there and how seriously they’re taking themselves.

Roustabouts work long hours, sometimes weeks at a time.

I get here at 10 and I go home at 10, sometimes I stay a little bit extra. It might be 13 or 14 hours

Danger accompanies the difficult, draining work.

You can slip and fall all the time, it’s slick. You got machinery in there that’s running around all the time. You could walk behind a loader, slip, he not know you’re there, put it in reverse and go.

Despite the risks, Joltes says there’s money to be had.

I know of a couple folks making $26, $28 dollars an hour.

Rose is one of those folks. He says that the money is good.

My bills are paid and so I’m happy. Back home I was getting behind and things weren’t working out as well as they are here.

It’s a young person’s job.

What I do, I can’t see me doing it for a long time. Some of these guys out here are pretty old and you can tell they’ve been doing it awhile. And they’re broke down. I don’t want to be like that.

Rose says despite the hours and workload, he likes his job.

This is just one in a series of stories The News Outlet will bring you about the gas and oil industry expansion in Ohio. Reporting for TheNewsOutlet.org, I’m Christopher Kochera.