County Health Calls on Federal Agency During HIV Crisis

Gretchen Gallen
LOS ANGELES – XBiz learned Tuesday that the Los Angeles County Health Department has called upon the services of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to help with recommendations on how to deal with the current HIV crisis in the porn industry.

NIOSH is a federal agency that specializes in the prevention of illness, injury, disability, and death in the workplace.

Both NIOSH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were created as a direct result of the 1970 Safety and Health Act. OSHA is housed under the U.S. Department of Labor to enforce workplace safety and health regulations, whereas NIOSH is in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was established to provide oversight for safe and healthful working conditions through research and training.

According to Fred Blosser, a public affairs officer for NIOSH, a Health Hazard Evaluation is currently underway out of NIOSH's Ohio office and could include advice from medical officers, engineers, and other professionals. Blosser added that an investigation into an HIV issue is not typically something they conduct.

"When we make recommendations, they serve a variety of purposes and aren't necessarily concerned with setting regulations or requirements," Blosser told XBiz. "They are not mandatory. The employer does not have to accept them. But typically they find them useful. We are reviewing information that the county Health Department has provided to us that will help us understand the issues involved and the background."

Jonathan Fielding, director for the Los Angeles County Health Department, told XBiz that he submitted a formal request several weeks ago asking NIOSH to take a look at current industry workplace standards for porn companies and offer some recommendations on dealing with worker safety and occupational hazards.

"We think they are an appropriate agency with important expertise at looking a work site hazards," said Fielding. "They look at situations and make recommendations pertaining to occupational safety."

Typically NIOSH conducts workplace reviews on a per-complaint basis from either an employer or an employee. After the evaluation, the report is returned to the requester and posted on the NIOSH website for public access.

"In a traditional kind of situation, information from a particular work site is usually read by other employers in similar kinds of industries," Blosser said. "Recommendations become a set of good practices for any kind of work site."

Fielding added that NIOSH is not a regulatory agency and that the Health Department is merely getting additional information at a federal level on how to proceed with the HIV issue in the porn industry.

Within the next several weeks, NIOSH's findings will be passed back to Fielding and his department for review, although Fielding was not clear on how the county plans to implement those recommendations.

In response to news that NIOSH was looking into adult entertainment business practices, Ira Levine, a board member for the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, told XBiz: "We've made it pretty clear that we are opposed on principal and policy to state or government mandated rules governing the way that X-rated pictures are shot that would undermine the voluntary system of testing and monitoring that we have in place. In other words, we don't think we need them. That has been our position all along.

"I feel confident in saying that any investigation will turn up the same outcome," Levine continued. "Which is that our current system works better than anything they would be likely to replace it with."