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5 Easy Tips to Go From Helper to Driller

posted by the Epiroc Exploration & OreBody Solutions team

April 3, 2019

No one starts out as a diamond driller. Like many other industries, in mineral exploration, there is an apprentice-like job: the helper or the offsider, depending on where you are working. A drill rig is a powerful machine and no one is going to let an inexperienced employee take control of it without making sure they know what they are doing.

Back in the day, physical strength was a requirement for a helper. Over the years, safety regulations improved, new products such as rod handlers were introduced and new processes were established. This has resulted in the job becoming accessible to more people, including women.

Fordia 2019 Driller training

A helper can spend anywhere from around 1 to 3 years before he goes on to become a diamond driller, and a lot will depend on the region in which he is working and the size of the company he is working for.  Some helpers decide they may not want the responsibility of being the driller, but for those who love the work and want to work their way up to driller status, here are 5 tips.

Be reliable

Drillers need to be able to count on a helper to keep things running smoothly while he is drilling. This can include making sure the supply pump is in good condition and has enough fuel. For this reason, they are sometimes called “pump shack runners” and they need to make sure that pump keeps running, especially in winter when the water lines need to be heated.

Part of being reliable is showing up for work on time and being ready to work. Being late or working at only 50% affects profitability. This is a job where putting core in the box is how you make money.

Take your job seriously

Whatever you need to do, make sure you do it properly. If it’s your job to take care of the core and place it in the core box, be aware that this is an important job, so do it well. Especially when orientation is used, the geologist needs to be able to read the core samples and understand where they came from.


Always follow the safety protocols and try to go the extra mile. All drillers will appreciate a helper who keeps the rig, tools and equipment clean.

Listen and learn

The old saying says, “You have two ears and only one mouth so listen twice as much as you talk”, and this applies in diamond drilling. There is so much for a helper to learn so spend most of your time listening. Once you have a good grasp of the mechanics, procedures and processes, you can start offering suggestions.

Be resourceful

Helpers who are resourceful are often the ones who are chosen for promotion. Signs that you are curious are admired as it shows that you are open to learning new things daily. Check out other resources like blogs such as this one and take a look at the how-to guides available. Out-of-the-box creativity when it comes to solving problems is also appreciated. I used to like to involve my helpers with down-the-hole problems to see if they understood what goes on down there and to test their sense of logic. If you see a better way to do something, suggest it to the driller. Products such as drilling fluid additives may be considered “new” to some old-school drillers so if you’ve worked with them in the past and think they could help with a drilling challenge, suggest trying them.

Have a good attitude

If you have hopes of becoming a driller, good interpersonal skills are an asset. As a driller, you will need to speak with clients and geologists because they will be your new bosses. You will have to handle your own helpers so treat them like the best boss you ever had treated you.

Like any other job, you may have different bosses over time. You may work for a driller who is great, teaches you a lot and gives you more and more responsibility and then you may move to a driller who has a very different style. Remember that your job is make the driller’s life easier so if you have ideas on how to correct a problem, let them know. Also remember that our goal is to improve drilling performance so don’t hesitate to contact us if you need technical support.