- The soft-spoken man, who was born in Mukaa, Makueni county, is among 21 Kenya Power staff who form the Air Mobile team.
- He also does repairs or maintenance on live lines, with electricity current passing through them.
Watching Patrick Mwau hanging like a movie stuntman as he is being hoisted by a helicopter up an electricity tower or pylon would leave anyone at the edge of their seat.
But for him, this has been his daily job for the last six years, and he does not plan to stop, not anytime soon.
Mwau, 32, is a craftsman, what many would call in the street ‘fundi wa stima’, but he is not your ordinary fundi. The father of one is tasked with carrying out maintenance or repairs on high voltage power lines. And to do this, he has to be taken up by a chopper hundreds of metres above the ground, while hanging on special ropes.
The soft-spoken man, who was born in Mukaa, Makueni county, is among 21 Kenya Power staff who form the Air Mobile team. He also does repairs or maintenance on live lines, with electricity current passing through them.
Live line repair is usually done to avoid switching off power and disrupting customers. The crew involved have specially insulated clothing and equipment for their safety.
His is not only a demanding job, but one that is crucial as high voltage lines are a vital asset; any disruption on them could even cause a national power outage.
“It may be tough and requires one to have grit and a heart of steel, but I love it because I know my contribution goes a long way in ensuring power supply is not disrupted. My job, and that of my colleagues, contributes to make Kenya Power what it is,” he says.
Mwau adds that while carrying out repair or maintenance on live lines, one has to be calm and focused while up there as any disruption can affect output. For safety purposes, the team always has a briefing, what they call a Toolbox Talk, where team members are also given a chance to speak of any issue that may be disturbing them.
“We have very understanding supervisors who will excuse any of the team member should they have anything bogging them down,“ he adds.
Mwau’s work comes with unexpected surprises!
His work does come with some unexpected surprises though! He recalls how one time he was taken up a tower only to find a huge swarm of bees and had to quickly radio call the pilot to move him away.
Another time while carrying out repairs at a high voltage line in Malaba, it suddenly began to rain and he had to endure the hail storm as he awaited the chopper to evacuate him.
Other times, the weather may change suddenly and this may force the pilot to fly higher so as to land him safely. But he takes it all in stride. He says it’s a job that gives him purpose and pride.
In May 2020, Mwau became the talk of town when a video of him being hoisted on a pylon to carry out repairs following a national blackout went viral. His confidence as he coordinated with the pilot above him left many admiring him. His dexterity saw him identify the fault and repair it within an hour and a half.
The Kenya Power craftsman attended Thome-Andu Secondary school in Makueni, and later joined the Institute of Energy Studies & Research (IESR), formerly Kenya Power Training School, in 2011.
He pursued a certificate in Electrical and Electronics, Power option, and later joined Kenya Power in 2014.
He had always desired to pursue a career in the energy sector but joining the Air Mobile team was almost accidental. “During my induction, shortly after I joined Kenya Power in 2014, I happened to hear one of my supervisors talking about the Air Mobile team and live line maintenance, which piqued my interest and I requested to join the team. A little while later, my wish was granted,” he says proudly.
Thereafter, Mwau began extensive training until he mastered the art. But he says much of the learning has happened on the job. He has now been at it for the last six years and he wants to do it for more. Mwau’s skills have also gone a long way in benefiting other staff who he has trained. He is forever grateful to the Company for the opportunity to serve in the Air Mobile team.