Cal/OSHA Fines Adult Video Companies

Gretchen Gallen
VAN NUYS, Calif. – In an unprecedented move, Cal/OSHA issued steep fines against two porn companies for allegedly failing to protect three employees from health hazards on the film set of "Split That Booty 2," which starred Darren James, Jessica Dee and Lara Roxx, three of the five performers who recently contracted HIV.

The citations come on the heels of an HIV outbreak in the porn industry six months ago that resulted in a temporary shutdown of all adult film production.

Van Nuys, Calif.-based Evasive Angles and TTB Productions were both fined a total of $30,560 for violations.

The two companies, which are owned by T.T. Boy, received citations for violating the state's bloodborne pathogen standard, a regulation that requires employers to protect workers exposed to blood or bodily fluids on the job.

According to Cal/OSHA, bloodborne pathogens can generate diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Those pathogens can infect a wide range of adult film workers, including people who clean up after scenes and people who assist in developing scenes.

Cal/OSHA spokesperson Susan Gard told XBiz that the fines against the two companies are the result of a complaint filed by the Los Angeles County Health Department based on the production of the film.

Angles and TTB Productions were also cited for not notifying authorities about actors who contracted HIV on the job, officials said, and for failing to prepare and follow a written safety and health program, known as an injury and illness prevention program.

"In a case where it is an illness, the contraction of disease, it is called an exposure incident, and that was the basis of our investigation," Gard told XBiz, adding that Evasive and TB have up to 15 days to appeal the decision and that Cal/OSHA will continue to issue fines against adult companies that violate any of the state's health regulations.

Calling the citation "ambiguous," Kat Sunlove, interim executive director for the Free Speech Coalition, questioned Cal/OSHA's authority.

"The problem is that OSHA is chartered to deal with employee relationships, and in adult entertainment, particularly for the talent, these folks are independent contractors so they move from one company to the next seamlessly," Sunlove said. "The real upshot of OSHA's move is yet to be seen because we don't know if they have authority in this area. I'm more than happy for the state to keep an eye on bad players, but how to police the industry is a whole other matter."

The recent HIV crisis within the adult entertainment industry set off a furor of worldwide media attention in May of this year and increased scrutiny from state and local health officials on the issue of condom usage and HIV contraction on adult film sets.

According to the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, only about 17 percent of actors use condoms on a regular basis.

On Aug. 16, West Hollywood Assemblyman Paul Koretz made recommendations for the adult industry to institute mandatory condom use for all performances of non-oral sexual intercourse.

Koretz warned that if the adult industry doesn’t comply with the “sensible request,” it would open doors for the Legislature to exercise its authority to mandate more stringent actions to protect public health and worker safety.

Koretz, who led an informational hearing in June on worker safety in the adult film business, said that HIV testing before and after an adult actor has worked on a film is necessary but not sufficient for prevention.

“I believe that the only method to effectively minimize the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is through the appropriate use of condoms in every film production, photo shoot or Internet performance featuring sexual intercourse,” Koretz said in a letter obtained by XBiz.

There is some speculation that the Leslie Bill AB 2978, legislation that would impose mandatory testing of all performers before production on an adult film can begin, could be resurrected in wake of Cal/OSHA's recent actions.

Assemblyman Tim Leslie’s bill to regulate porn companies took a nosedive after the Assembly Health Committee voted to move the bill to an interim hearing, which effectively stopped the legislation in its tracks.

The bill was strongly opposed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union based on its invasion of privacy rights. Even the Motion Picture Association of America said the bill was so broad that it could create liability for non-porn films.

Koretz, who is chair of the state Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, wants the adult industry to adopt harm-reduction strategies developed by Dr. Thomas Coates, a professor of infectious diseases at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. Those strategies include using condoms for all non-oral sexual intercourse in the adult industry, educating performers on five bodily fluids that transmit HIV, the use of the female condom, and the use of a condom for non-oral intercourse after initial penetration.

Cal/OSHA has set up a special phone line at (213) 237-9958 so adult film industry workers who believe their employer is not providing a safe and healthy work environment may file a complaint, and employers in need of help setting up an effective injury and illness prevention program can request free assistance without the risk of receiving a citation if violations are found.

Company officials for Evasive Angles and TTB Productions could not be reached for comment at press time.