SAN FRANCISCO — The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is diverting significant Cal/OSHA resources away from serious work-related incidents to audit the adult film business, particularly with complaints and the drive to amend regulations that mandate barrier protection in shoots, according to new charges leveled by industry officials and stakeholders.
Heightened complaints over AHF's tactics in attempts to catapult condom regulation to the forefront come after a new report was released by the U.S. Department of Labor and federal OSHA that paints a grim picture for Cal/OSHA.
The Labor Department, which is threatening to restrict federal funding if Cal/OSHA's performance doesn't improve, said that the occupational safety agency is "challenged to fulfill its important mission" in its latest annual evaluation.
Federal authorities said that in California a lack of staffing affects citation lapse time, the number of inspections conducted and the response time to complaints.
"In particular, the number of inspections conducted by current Cal/OSHA staff is well below the federal average," Labor Department officials said.
The AHF, which sponsored legislation including the current Measure B ordinance in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and the now-stalled AB 1576, now is reviewing its options on how to proceed after losing the condom bill at the state Capitol.
Its president, Michael Weinstein, has threatened that if he doesn't get his way with Cal/OSHA's standards board over a draft proposal that would amend California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 5193, and mandate barrier protection, he'll try to get a statewide ballot box initiative passed in 2016.
Just this week, after hearing that the FSC called a now-ended performer moratorium, Weinstein said he wants AB 1576 to be reintroduced in California's Legislature next term.
While legislation and lobbying over the condom issue has gone a long way for Hollywood, Calif.-based AHF through the years, so have the scores of complaints it's made over adult shoots.
In California, and now in Nevada, the AHF has leveled complaints against numerous studios, including Kink.com, Treasure Island Media and others — much to the ire of the adult film community, who say that state regulators are being bullied with the filings.
"Cal/OSHA’s complaint-based system is being abused by AHF," Diane Duke, who leads the Free Speech Coalition as CEO, told XBIZ. "According to the 2012 stats from the [state] Bureau of Labor and Industry, someone dies every day in California due to unsafe working conditions — but not in adult.
"AHF is diverting valuable state resources away from serious incidents to condom-audit an industry that hasn’t had case of HIV transmitted on set nationally in over 10 years. If AHF really cared about workplace safety, it would stop wasting Cal/OSHA’s time."
Peter Acworth, the founder of BDSM studio Kink.com, a subject of several AHF complaints, said that "Cal/OSHA has bigger fish to fry."
"This was a top concern for legislators during the discussions over AB1576," Acworth told XBIZ. "For years, AHF has been abusing Cal/OSHA's complaint system as a means of getting press for their condom bill. Because Cal/OSHA has to respond to every complaint filed, valid or not, it reduces the agency's ability to affect change where it's really needed. It's shameful."
But Weinstein told XBIZ that Cal/OSHA's problems in managing itself have nothing to do with his group's goal in getting productions regulated with new rules that would shield performers and set personnel from contact with bloodborne pathogens or other potentially infectious material during the production of films.
"Porn producers sudden interest in worker protection is touching," Weinstein said. "However, AHF believes that California, the nation's richest state, can afford to protect all of its workers."
Much to the chagrin of industry stakeholders and lobbied heavily by Weinstein and the AHF, Cal/OSHA's proposed new rules, under draft Section 5193.1, would specifically target adult film productions.
"The word 'draconian' comes to mind that these now go beyond condoms and imply barrier protection for pretty much the rest of the body while filming sexual activity on film," said Colin Rowntree, a veteran adult filmmaker and operator of BDSM site Wasteland.com. "Of note, 'personal protective equipment' is any garment, device (such as a condom), or equipment used to prevent contact of an employee’s eyes, skin, mucous membranes, or genitals with the blood or OPIM-STI of another.
"What that indicates to me is AHF wants Cal/OSHA to go far beyond requiring condoms, and ramp up 'protection' to include gloves, dental dams, safety goggles, and whatever else is needed to prevent any bodily fluid exchanges," Rowntree told XBIZ.
Rowntree said that aside from the "sheer absurdity of trying to shoot porn in hazmat suits, I find it truly offensive for AHF to use Cal/OSHA as a 'tool' for their mission now that they have been soundly defeated at the state level of legislation."
"Cal/OSHA has far better things to be spending tax dollars on than this sort of solution looking for a problem," Rowntree said. "The adult industry has done a fine job for well over a decade on keeping performers safe through testing, and it is not that uncommon for many studios to have condoms as an available option for their performers."