Severn Trent HR director in at the deep end with emergency response to floods

By Friday afternoon of the first week in a new job, most people would be winding down and looking forward to a relaxing weekend, but not Alec Luhaste.

The new HR director at utility firm Severn Trent found himself thrown headlong into an emergency-response process as flood water threatened Severn Trent Water’s Mythe treatment plant near Tewkesbury.

By Monday morning, the plant was evacuated, large parts of Gloucestershire were left without running water, and Luhaste found himself entrenched at the division’s hastily created incident management room near Coventry.

Now he has told Personnel Today how the HR team managed 24-hour cover, how it suspended the Working Time Regulations with the support of both employees and unions, and how it recruited 300 temporary staff to deal with the crisis.

“It was interesting to see a company throw itself into action in that way,” he said.

“To have Cheltenham and Tewkesbury without water for a couple of days was an exceptional situation.

“I felt a bit helpless as I didn’t know the organisation fully, but the HR team played an important role.

“They were on the telephones, making sure we had 24-hour cover in the incident room, sorting out temps, finding people hotels and food, and working long shifts themselves.

“HR maintained a constant dialogue to manage the situation and make sure people did not become so tired that they became a danger to themselves,” he added.

“It showed that while the workforce is there for the company, the HR team is there for the workforce.”

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