Saturday, February 8, 2014

OSHA, Condoms and The Porn Industry: A Matter of Worker Safety?

by Nomad

A San Francisco porn company has been hit with a fine of nearly $80,000 for maintaining dangerous workplace conditions, among them allowing performers to have sex on camera without using condoms.
Kink.com spokesperson Michael Stabile said that performers themselves preferred not to use condoms. In reality, Stabile told reporters, the fine was simply an attempt to close down the porn industry by Cal/OSHA, a Division of Occupational Safety and Health agency.
The inspection was prompted by a formal complaint filed by AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles advocacy group, after two Kink performers - Cameron Bay and her then-boyfriend Rod Daily - tested HIV-positive last year.
In September, California lawmakers voted down a bill that would have required that porn actors use condoms.
These rules have been primarily aimed to healthcare workers. However, they can also apply to lifeguards, police, firefighters and members of medical emergency teams workers in dental offices, prisons, medical laboratories, mortuaries, schools, home health care operations.
In fact, wherever there is a possibility of exposure, the employer has a duty to protect his employees. 

Employers who do not provide personal protective equipment to workers who are exposed to possibly contaminated blood and body fluids have to right to file a complaint with authorities. This is the first time it has been applied to porn actors. 
Personal protective equipment includes items such as gloves, eye protection, gowns and other things that help prevent contact with contaminated objects, blood or body fluids. Your employer must provide suitable equipment for you at no cost.
It is an interesting application of the rules to say the least. Porn actors in full bio-hazard outfits will probably be appealing to the usual customers. (Of course, it could appeal to the fetish market, I suppose.)

As CNN recently reported, the industry also has some doubts and fears about how the fines could impact the adult entertainment industry. If sex sells, then reminding the porn audience of the potential dangers of unprotected sex does not.
Even with three recent cases of HIV among performers..many porn producers and performers are still fighting against mandatory condom use. According to the Free Speech Coalition, which represents the adult entertainment industry, when they tried using condoms nine years ago after another HIV outbreak, the $14 billion-a-year business saw revenue decline as much as 30%.
Like other employers who face OSHA fines for exposing workers to hazardous substances, they have claimed that performers are as protected on the job as they want to be. The option of safe sex is there, they say.
However, in such cases, whether it is in a hospital, a factory or a film studio, it is difficult to know how much pressure is being used on employees at the workplace to avoid safety measures. Some would claim that for the adult entertainment industry, the bottom line has always been about revenue, not the health of the workers. You could argue that this is only the exploitation of the worker at its most fundamental level. 

The porn industry also claims that performer are tested for STDs every two weeks. Not at all reassuring when you learn that antibodies for HIV can take up to three months following exposure  to the virus for the disease manifest itself in any way.
According to some doctors, a person who has recently become infected with HIV should be considered infectious (able to transmit HIV) within a few days of acquiring it. During the time of the infection until the next testing period, the individual is, in theory,  a risky partner for his/her co-workers. (And this situation is probably even more true with other STDs where the incubation time may be less.)

So, even if what the industry claims is true about the health monitoring, then two weeks check-ups will not be much help. In fact, it may do more harm by giving performers a false sense of security. The only answer then is mandatory condom use or closing down of the porn studios altogether.  

In November, Los Angeles County passed an ordinance requiring condom use on porn sets, but industry insiders say the rule is not well enforced and often ignored.


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