July 23, 2018
A Career Like No Other - Are You Up for the Challenge?
Bordered by the Indian Ocean to the west and the Great Sandy Desert to the east, David Trove, a relief driller for Boart Longyear, finds himself among the breathtaking landscape of the Pilbara in the “Land Down Under.”
Surrounded by deep rocky canyons, sandy white beaches, and untouched coral gardens, the Pilbara is also known as the “Engine Room” of Australia – home to a large mining industry… and Trove’s team.
“I enjoy the country and the environment that we work in,” Trove notes. “Most people pay to come see this… but we get paid to work here.”
Although the heart of Australia’s Northwest could be considered paradise, it’s not without challenges.
“I’ve always liked drilling… it sorta gets in your blood a bit. I enjoy the work up here, but it’s challenging with ground conditions and flows of water,” Trove remarks.
Not to mention, with daily temperatures exceeding 90 °F (32 °C) and with highs reaching 113 °F (45 °C), drillers like Trove are working in extreme conditions that are both mentally and physically exhausting.
Brian Maeck, Boart Longyear’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Global Director, recalls his experience working on a rig over a decade ago:
“I started my career as an underground drilling assistant with Boart Longyear almost 12 years ago now, and I have been given opportunities I had never dreamed of,” Maeck states. “I’ve worked as a driller, supervisor, trainer, EHS coordinator, national EHS manager, and now I manage the global EHS department; it truly has been an amazing journey.”
He continues, “The work was hard, in very challenging conditions and in unique geographical locations. But the mining and exploration industry (and drilling in particular) can open a lot of doors. I grew up in a small town in northern Ontario, Canada, and I never thought I’d see the world like I have; this company has allowed me to travel to five continents, where I’ve met thousands of terrific people over the years and enjoyed being exposed to their fascinating cultures. Working for Boart Longyear has been an experience of a lifetime for me,” Maeck concludes.
While a career in drilling is a path to success for many like Trove and Maeck, there are key factors to consider when researching jobs in the drilling and mining industry.
Most drill rigs operate on an around-the-clock basis, with drill team members working 10 or 12-hour shifts. This means early starts, late nights, or a combination of both.
“You wake up extremely early in the morning and head to the job site, where you meet with supervision who walk you through a Pre-Start Information (or PSI) meeting, which outlines the tasks for the day and any associated hazards we need to be prepared for. We change into our company coveralls and personal protective equipment and head to the job site,” Maeck recalls.
At the drill site, a certain level of physical fitness is required for employees to adequately carry out their tasks. Working on a drill rig involves labor-intensive activities such as heavy lifting and manual handling. For example, as a driller assistant, specific physical duties might include:
- Working with a driller to move and set up equipment to get the drill running
- Ensuring the rig is fueled at all times
- Keeping the work site hazard-free by conducting required risk assessments
- Rod handling
- Removing core samples from the tubes, or collecting soil or rock chip samples
- Preparing samples for clients
- General equipment maintenance
- Preparation of the site for the next shift
- Constant communication to cross shifts, supervision, EHS personnel, and management
If drillers are working on a project underground, employees will “tag themselves in” with personnel ID tags on the surface, so management is aware of everyone’s location. Then, drillers take a conveyance to travel under the earth.
“It’s a surreal experience,” Maeck relates, “I loved working underground from the start, it was and continues to be a real adventure. I have seen some people shy away from the underground environment, however, due to their personal comfort levels.”
Not only do drillers undertake long hours performing manual labor, but they’re also experiencing every condition in nature from temperature and altitude extremes, to encounters with local wildlife. Because of the strong demand for drilling services, worldwide operations are up and running regardless of the season.
“Safety, hazard, and risk awareness is a big part of the job, and we are always conducting risk assessments,” Maeck adds. “Because Boart Longyear employees work in over 30 countries, we have to be continually learning and assessing environmental job hazards. You could be working in cold or hot temperatures, contend with any type of wild animal, or work in various conditions found in the underground environment, forests, great plains, mountains, deserts, or even the arctic. We are always learning how to protect ourselves and others,” Maeck declares.
And with today’s standards, working in the drilling industry is often considered safer than other career options like construction-type work. For example, drillers frequently operate in areas that miners have already been to and secured with rock support, providing a much safer site for drilling.
A drilling crew usually consists of one driller and one or more driller assistants. Multi-rig operations will have a supervisor or project leader overseeing the operation.
So, what would it be like to work on a Boart Longyear team?
As part of the team, supervisors visit the rig and talk with the team to provide advice and assistance. The client may also visit the rig to view core, soil or rock chip samples, perform safety checks, or discuss production issues. At the end of the shift, all drill data and safety-related paperwork must be submitted to supervision for further communication requirements. Employees attend a shift changeover meeting to communicate with the incoming shift and discuss issues with supervisors.
“You truly form lifelong relationships with your drill crew and other company staff,” Maeck relates. “You work closely with your team every day for long hours, and we make the best of it. We work together, and we hang out together at the end of the day. In a lot of ways your drill crew becomes a second family.”
While many job sites are conveniently located in or near populated areas, drilling is usually performed in remote locations. In very isolated locations, employees could be away from family and friends from 2-6 weeks at a time. In these cases, the company usually provides accommodations which could be motels in nearby towns or camps located near the drill site.
“I’m quite happy,” David Trove declares, “There’s a tight-knit community because you’re always working in mining camps, so you get to meet everyone and socialize pretty well.”
Is a Career in Drilling for You?
A career in drilling is an important decision for both employees and their families. Individuals who work in drilling enjoy work that is often physically demanding in challenging conditions. But they’re also aware of the great benefits and rewards of this industry.
“Drilling is rewarding,” Maeck states. “Every day you are producing a product, whether it is a rock core sample, soil or rock chip samples, or even just a hole in the rock for blasting purposes. What’s nice about the job is that you spend the day towards a production goal ensuring processes are done the right way to ensure personal safety. You work hard, and you feel good about the effort at the end of the day.”
If a career in drilling seems like a good fit for you, visit http://careers.boartlongyear.com/ for current open positions in your area.