Women in oil and gas: Meet Rig 39 medic Erin Johnson

Erin on horse


Erin Johnson is passionate about taking care of living things, human or animal.

That passion originally put the oil patch medic on the road to a career as an emergency medical technician (EMT), but something intervened.

“I became a medic because I was thinking that I wanted to become an EMT,” said Johnson. “Now I’m realizing that I don’t really want to do that, and I want to stay in the oilfield. I love the work and I love the people I meet.”

Johnson, just 21 years old, already has two years of experience as a medic. She is a qualified Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), and has taken a number of extra safety courses with her company, including petroleum safety, safe driving practices and even how to land a helicopter.

Johnson was recently the medic on Trinidad Rig 39, where she was impressed by how the rig workers had mastered Trinidad’s safety culture. Johnson spent May until November 2015 on the rig near Hinton, Alberta, and in that entire time, she never once had to provide medical services to a crewmember.

“Rig 39 was great,” said Johnson. “The crew on Rig 39 was totally safe.”

When she was not needed for medical care reasons, Johnson fulfilled other important roles during her time on the rig, including collecting the hazard identifications every day, and then presenting them at the twice-daily safety meetings.

“I made sure the crew knew all the hazards and I collected the job safety analysis sheets (JSA),” she said. If someone didn’t have a JSA, she would be responsible for having it filled out, and then would sign off on it.

More than the medic – part of the crew

Because the rig was so safe, Johnson had time to get to know the crew – an important relationship because medics can never leave the rig site. Johnson had to rely on the crew if she needed something from the nearby town.

In Canada, all rigs are required to have medics on call 24/7, and for Trinidad, these positions are contracted through the exploration and production companies.

“They’d always ask if I needed anything, and, oftentimes, brought me Tim Hortons or Starbucks.”

Johnson is one of few women working in the field on rigs, but she always felt comfortable and accepted on Rig 39.

Fun with four-legged friends too

Johnson is also an animal-lover: horses, elephants, you name it. When she arrived at Trinidad Rig 39 as the new medic, she did find alligator teeth, a monkeyboard, and a doghouse, along with a bunch of nice guys.

Johnson’s love for animals began when she was young. From Wetaskiwin, Alberta, she grew up riding horses and she hasn’t stopped. Before she became a medic, she trained horses, and still shows horses and barrel races.

Between medic gigs, Johnson loves to travel, and much of that travel is related to working with animals, many of them at risk. She volunteers with an organization called Globalteer, which takes care of animals around the world.

“I was recently in Thailand volunteering at an elephant sanctuary,” she said. “It’s all elephants that were rescued from tourist industries, or being ridden in circuses. I love elephants.”

“We would bathe most of them every day – except the really aggressive one. We would throw vegetables over his gate into the lake, so he would have to swim out to get his vegetables.”

She and her fellow volunteers would also clean out the elephant corrals, and every second day would head into the jungle and chop down banana trees with machetes. The trees were lugged back in a huge truck, and fed to the elephants.

“We would chop them into pieces and the elephants would eat the whole tree — except the bark.”

The sanctuary was also home to many other animals including monkeys, bears, large birds, and even a crocodile.

She is planning another Globalteer adventure starting in March. Yet, even with all the adventures coming up, Johnson says she will miss the guys on Rig 39.

Read more about women in oil and gas: Catch up with Erica Rocha, Lisa Ottmann and Lesley Bolster in these previous blogs.

Trinidad employs a number of international adventurers like Erin, including  Aaron Zurfluh, Haider Almoosa, Brandon Skelton, Chris Porter and Trevor Warren.

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