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Porn Performers Unite Over Proposed Cal/OSHA Safety Regulations

Porn Performers Unite Over Proposed Cal/OSHA Safety Regulations
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Tuesday, Jun 7, 2011    Text size: 

LOS ANGELES — In one of the most heated and contentious advisory panel meetings so far, nearly 70 porn performers came out in force to voice their concerns and give input on a Cal/OSHA draft proposal containing modifications to California's health code to strengthen adult industry workplace safety regulations.

Marked by angry outbursts and personal attacks between various performers and the panel, Deborah Gold, Cal/OSHA’s senior safety engineer, was visibly frustrated and had a difficult time keeping the group on track as she tried to move the five-and-a-half hour meeting forward.

Audience members tended to move off topic on numerous occasions prompting Amy Martin, Cal/OSHA’s counsel, to reiterate that they would not be discussing any other issues than what was on the agenda.

The purpose of Tuesday’s meeting was to gather comments from industry stakeholders to crystalize specific areas of proposed regulations in the draft, which is not a rule-making proposal. Several items were on the agenda including discussing definitions, control measures, alternative measures, medical services and record keeping.

The draft described “adult entertainment” as the production of any film, video, multimedia or other recorded or live presentation in which performers actually engage in any activity that may result in exposure of the eyes, skin, mouth, anus, vagina or other mucous membranes to the blood or other potentially infectious materials – sexually transmitted infections (OPIM-STI).

Many took issue with this description saying this was too broad of a definition.

“Even kissing can pass along disease,” fetish performer Sid Black said.

Gold said the goal is to identify an industry where there’s an intention to expose people and that it’s not about content. She said that saliva isn’t considered an OPIM.

Attorney Paul Cambria said that regulations should not be content based.

“The only way to be fair is to identify activities that may lead to exposures,” Cambria said. “It’s not a matter of a category being adult, but rather as activities that are covered by these rules.”

Julia Ann, a veteran adult industry performer, said these regulations were singling out the adult industry.

“Our whole purpose is to be exposed,” she said. “This doesn’t make sense to me. It feels discriminatory that they are going after us and not other industries. It feels like we’re getting penalized because there’s sex involved.”

Gold responded by saying Cal/OSHA has laws that apply to all industries and all kinds of employment and that this specifically deals with the production of adult films.

Another performer ElaDarling brought up the topic of employee vs. independent contractors, which was brought up several times during the meeting. There was universal agreement from performers who said that they are not employees, but independent contractors and that these regulations would only apply to “employees” of a company. Martin reminded everyone to stay focused on the language of the draft.

The meeting then moved on to “barrier protection,” described as a condom or other physical block that prevents the passage of blood and OPIM-STI to another person.

Gold explained that “physical block” was written as a general term on purpose to allow producers to come up with their own physical blocks as they see fit.

A female performer said that if condoms are enforced, that every legitimate studio will be affected and productions will either go underground or leave the state.

“Our industry depends on that shot!” one performer exclaimed. “It’s really that simple.”

Another performer said that enforcing condoms won’t work in the adult industry.

“What you’re proposing will not work,” the performer said. “If you want to help and protect people in the industry, you need to take a look at testing, not barriers.”

Dan O’Connell, president of Girlfriends Films, agreed and said enforcing condoms especially for girl/girl scenes would be problematic.

“If we provide barrier protection, it’ll be the end of the industry here in California,” he said. “Fans of girl/girl who are into the oral part will not put up with barrier protection.”

Girlfriends Films vice president Moose said consenting adults know what they’re doing when they get into adult and added that changing regulations won’t make a difference in workplace safety for performers. Instead, he believes in raising awareness and educating performers on the risks of working in adult.

Gold said that Cal/OSHA is not preventing the industry from continuing to test or performing other procedures. She said Cal/OSHA standards are the floor, not the ceiling and nothing is stopping the industry from mandating its own services.

Another topic that was hotly debated was permitting alternate measures to control risks of oral sex. This stipulation says that until 2016, employers may use the following procedures in lieu of using condoms or other barrier protection to prevent oral contact with the blood or OPIM-STI of another person.

Employers can adopt into the exposure control plan the alternate procedures to be used. Each exposed individual must have either completed the Hepatitis B vaccine or be current in their doses and each exposed person must have been medically evaluated.

The meeting then moved on to the topic of creating a “Consortium,” which would provide medical services to one or more employers in accordance with this standard and other requirements. While most people in the audience agreed with the concept, many brought up issues such as who would pay for the services and how will testing be provided for performers who work for multiple producers.

“The purpose is to let the industry organize itself and provide services as a group,” Gold said, adding that producers can cut costs by working together.

Performer Nicki Hunter said that because many people stay in adult for only a short time, it will take a toll on the industry as a whole.

“If we have to pay, that’s taking money away from the porn industry,” she said. “It’s going to bleed the porn industry.”

Free Speech Coalition’s Diane Duke explained that the newly formed Adult Production Health and Safety Services will act as a liaison between testing organizations, clinics, performers and producers. But that didn’t calm the nerves of some in the audience.

“I don’t know how we can create a place where performers will feel safe,” performer Nina Hartley said. “I detect sex-worker bias and we are being marginalized.”

At the end of the meeting, Gold reminded everyone that current standards still apply to adult, which means the use of condoms as a form of barrier protection.

Cal/OSHA will now decide whether or not to move forward with the draft proposal. If the agency decides to move forward, the draft will be sent to the Standards Board and public hearings will be held.

To voice your opinion on the draft legislation, email Deborah Gold at DGold@dir.ca.gov.

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