Interview with Margaret Mary Bryan Retta, an Operating Engineer, Journeyman Crane Operator


Cranesy: What’s your favorite memory about your work with cranes?
Maggie Retta: My greatest memory was early on in my career. I was one of the first operators on a starting project and we had a lot of cranes to erect and walk onto the barges and transport to the island (work site). The head site manager came to me and said he was impressed with the safe way I operate and wanted me to be THE operator with the important and dangerous task of loading and offloading. He gave me all the manufactures requirements for me to study up on. There were 12 different cranes, all with different specifications on how to do this task. Needless to say I completed the task safely and in a timely manner and even received a $5.00 pay raise.

Cranesy: According to your opinion, what is necessary to know/do to become a good crane operator?
Maggie Retta: I believe that in order to become a true crane operator one needs to have worked on the other end of the hook as a rigger, ironworker or any craft that requires a crane to complete a task. That way once a person gets in the seat of a crane they know exactly what the guys on the ground need as far as certain techniques the operator can perform. An operator needs to be able to predict and have several alternatives moved planned out ahead of time, like in chess for example.

Cranesy: Speaking about safety lift: Write some tips for riggining at night?
Maggie Retta: Rigging and operating at night can be a very difficult job to perform. There are a number of things that can make it safer. Ensure there is proper lighting and plenty of it. More importantly, make sure the lighting is strategically placed. If lighting cannot be placed due to work area restrictions, the operator cane setup his/her crane so that the light does not come from behind the load causing a blind pick. If neither of these are possible, radio communication is a must. Do not lift a load using hand signals because at some point in the lift the signal persons hands will become invisible in the shadows. Speaking of shadows, the dark plays tricks on the eyes and depth perception is reduced to as much as 75% of what it was at noon. More reason for radio signals.

Cranesy: How has your work inspired you in your life?
Maggie Retta: Working with cranes has inspired me to never settle for what I have. I always strive to get a bigger, heavier in capacity crane than the one I currently have. And since I work to have the best at work, I take that goal and I apply it into my home life. I push to have beautiful possesions, and even outdo do my buddies on trucks and barbeque grills etc etc lol. I find it kind of funny, but I think I’ve become a bit of a snob since I became an operator (smiling).

Cranesy: Would you recommend other women to undertake this career?
Maggie Retta: I definitely recommend other women to pursue the operating if they are currently working in the the construction field. But like I said, I do believe it is a must to work on the ground first so when they get in the seat they aren’t just “pulling levers” as us operators put it. Anybody can pull a lever, but the best operate the machine.

Cranesy: Aside a work, how do you spend your spare time? Your hobbies?
Maggie Retta: My hobbies are decorating my house, fishing, boating and playing with my makeup and clothes!

Cranesy: If you could make one wish, what would it be?
Maggie Retta: If I had one wish…hmmmm…I’d have to say to be able to eat whatever and as much as I want without gaining weight. Hard for us operators to keep the pounds off as it is.

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