Oil Spill Responder Job Description

Large oil spills such as the Alaska Valdez and Gulf spills make headline news. Once the headlines fade away, most people’s thoughts of oil spills also fade away. However, smaller spills continue to occur without headlines, making oil spill response and prevention jobs necessary. While wildlife rehabilitators specially trained and license in caring for animals affected by oil spills care for the animals, oil spill responders clean the oil out of the affected environment and survey and monitor the extend of and damage from the spill. Much of the work also revolves around oil spill prevention and regulation to avoid oil spills.

Oil Spill Responder Job Duties

Oil spill response and prevention is a diverse industry. This is just a small sampling of potential job duties.

  • Airplane and helicopter pilots are needed to survey the extent of the spill from the air. Pilots must be able to fly in extreme weather conditions and over varying terrains.
  • Government employees regulate oil companies, oversee oil spill response efforts, and manage oil spill response trainings for governmental and oil company employees.
  • Responders on the ground cleaning the oil use oil skimmers, oil containment booms, and other gear to manually clean the oil from water and land surfaces.
  • Administrative staff work to manage and coordinate legal documents, volunteers, staff, and trainings.

Working Conditions

Oil spill responders alternate from working fewer hours during downtimes between spills to working 16-hour days or more during large active spills. When there is not a spill, times is spend in trainings and preparation for spills, as well as research into better preventing and responding to spills. During a spill, the job may require working outdoors. During non-spill times, more office work may be required. These jobs require extensive travel for trainings and to spill sites and the ability to respond and travel to a spill at a moment’s notice. Since oil spills tend to occur during severe weather conditions, winter months can often be busier than he summer months. Work may also involve responding to other environmental or natural disasters such as fires or earthquakes.

Oil Spill Responder Salary

Oil spill response and prevention job salaries will vary depending on the position. Temporary cleanup crew may earn $15 to $30 an hour during a large active spill. Senior environmental scientists and government spill response specialists can earn $100,00 to $150,00 a year.

Education and Experience Requirements

The education and experience needed for oil spill responder jobs will depend greatly on the specific position. Directors of oil spill response, whether for a government agency or company, will likely need a M.S. or Ph.D. in an environmental science. HAZWOPER certification is required for any position involving removal of oil from the environment. In any position, an understanding of laws and regulations regarding all aspects of oil, containment, transport, disposal, and clean up is required.

Desirable Skills

Other desirable skills for many of these types of jobs include experience working with regulatory agencies, trade unions, and others in the industry. Preference is often given to those with previous oil spill experience.

Where to Find Oil Spill Responder Jobs

Private companies that have government contracts as disaster responders and oil spill responders hire staff to respond to oil spills that fall under the state or federal government’s direction. Oil companies have spill response specialists and environmental scientists on staff to coordinate the company’s oil spill prevention, response, and restoration efforts.  During active spill cleanup efforts, companies responsible for cleanup efforts may hire temporary workers with construction, hazmat, or other related skills for the cleanup of land and waterways.

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