ExxonMobil’s Singapore chemical plant, where Mr Rudi Hermawi Effandi works, runs a 24/7 operations and will soon be its largest in the world, following the completion of its expansion.

Despite his shift work arrangements, Mr Rudi, 28, a bridegroom-to-be, enjoys work-life balance. Every other week, he has a long weekend off that includes a Monday. He spends his days off resting, catching up with his family and friends and his personal interests. The best part about his job is there is no need to take work home — tasks are always handed over to the next shift team to follow up, he says.

To keep himself fit to manage the physical demands of his job, Mr Rudi joined the running club — part of ExxonMobil’s recreation club that organises a range of activities and courses for its employees to ensure a work-life balance.

A large part of Mr Rudi’s role involves the safe and efficient operation of the plant. To ensure he is not injured on the job, he has to wear his personal protective equipment (PPE) while working in the plant. His PPE comprises a fire retardant suit, a safety helmet equipped with ear muffs, and goggles to protect his eyes. He also puts on safety gloves to prevent cuts or scalding from hot pipe surfaces.

Mr Rudi explains: “Safety is at the core of operations. I have to keep a lookout to ensure all work is compliant with our safety guidelines and processes, so workers can go home safely at the end of the day.”

If he is on the day shift, he inspects critical pumps to ensure everything is in order. He also works with contractors who hold permits to work in the plant to ensure the safe execution of maintenance and improvement projects, and with engineers to troubleshoot complex process issues within the unit.

His night shift duties include preparing work permits for the next day. It is critical that he and his team ensure that the work specified in every permit submitted is executed safely and properly.

He adds: “We need a lot of discipline to motivate ourselves to learn and understand the complex processes involved in our job. Since we work beside contractors from many different countries, we need the leadership to guide them and show them the best examples in terms of safe practices,” says Mr Rudi who has a diploma in chemical engineering from Singapore Polytechnic.

Mr Rudi, who joined ExxonMobil in January 2009, notes there are many different roles in the oil and gas industry. “I used to think that being in the oil and gas industry requires you to have a chemical-related discipline but when I joined, I met people with diverse backgrounds. There are many different types of technicians such as analyser technicians, machinery technicians, electrical and instrumentation technicians.”

Given the complex chemical process of running the plant and the physical nature of the job, good teamwork and communication are essential to do the job well.

“I work with many different nationalities such as Indians, Malaysians and Filipinos. Every day, we learn new things from one another and my teammates share experiences from their plants in other parts of the world. We learn about one another’s cultures so we can work together easily. When faced with any issue, we band together to rough it out and come out of it stronger as a team,” he says.

Mr Rudi, who is also a member of the Designated Emergency Response Team and a first-aider in emergencies, is constantly on a learning curve. To upgrade his skills, he attends courses and reads widely to learn about operating the different types of equipment. “This is necessary for a technician to gain more knowledge and experience to be promoted to assume different roles and responsibilities.”

Mr Rudi says he looks forward to more training and qualifying for other posts to further his career. Typically, a trainee technician can aim to be promoted to either a supervisory position or as a manufacturing coordinator. With the necessary qualifications, a technician can be promoted to become an operations engineer or a contact engineer.