EPC employees could undergo mandatory drug testing at work

The Electric Power Corporation has begun preparations to get Cabinet-approval for all their employees to undergo mandatory drug testing.

EPC Chief Executive Officer, ologata Tile Tuimaleali’ifano, told Samoa Observer in an interview that a submission will be put to Cabinet next month for its approval to begin the in-house drug testing program.

“Safety is paramount and drug testing for EPC employees should be mandatory. And we anticipate to submit this for Cabinet approval by next month,” he said.

Tologata said the proposal is long overdue and they have submitted a request to the American Samoa Power Authority to assist by providing its internal policy which the EPC will use to draft its own drug testing policy. 

“Our staff has been instructed to consult with the Health Services and the SROS (Scientific Research Organization of Samoa) whether they are able to conduct the drug testing locally. 

“We hope to have this policy enforced by April with the approval of the EPC Board and Cabinet,” he said. 

And the CEO was asked what compelled the organisation to introduce the policy, he said it is too risky for staff who are "high" on drugs to be working. 

“It is all part of the strategy to have a drug free working environment and also to assure the safety is paramount for the staff. We can’t afford to have staffs who are high working on the electrical line, it is dangerous."

The move to force workers to undergo mandatory drug tests could raise employee confidentiality and rights issues, but Tologata said all these factors have been taken on board and will be looked at before the policy is finalised. 

Tologata was accompanied by the EPC Project Manager, Fonoti Perelini Fonoti who is also the Chairman for the American Samoa Power Authority Board and has expressed support for this proposed policy. 

Fonoti said a similar policy implemented by the ASPA is quite effective and ensures the security of not just the employees, but the public and also equipment. 

“In the past with ASPA the testing was scheduled, nowadays its random and the recent drug test, four employees have been terminated as a result.

“Also the American Samoa Government has it in their laws that all government employees are subjected to alcohol and drug testing.” 

Five months ago, the American Samoa Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga signed into law legislation, requiring alcohol and drug testing for all government employees – including elected officials and political appointees.

In a letter dated October 9, 2018 the Governor advised Parliament that the Senate bill signed into law will allow the American Samoa Government to provide for appropriate and uniform alcohol and drug test procedures “for all government employees, applicants for ASG positions, elected officials, political appointees, contractors, subcontractors, independent contractors” creating a new statute.

“Testing of individuals is subject to certain criteria,” according to the bill, which states that the ASG Department of Human Resources is the lead agency in handling all policies and procedures of the proposed law, and DHR is also responsible for enforcing all provisions of the bill, which also provides for alcohol and drug rehabilitation services.

Lolo explained in his letter that he approved the legislation “because the American Samoa Government is committed to providing a safe workplace for its employees. Furthermore, all individuals who come into contract with our employees, services of property should be protected from harmful actions resulting in the use of drugs.”

“This law will make our workforce more reliable, safe, and productive,” the governor said. “It is also in line with our efforts in battling the severe drug epidemic that is crippling our island," Lolo added. 

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