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2 Porn Producers Get Safety Citations

Cal/OSHA fines the Van Nuys firms for allegedly allowing unprotected sex by actors.

September 17, 2004|Caitlin Liu and Eric Malnic | Times Staff Writers

Cal/OSHA said Thursday it had fined two Los Angeles-area adult film companies $30,560 each for allegedly allowing actors to perform unprotected sex, the first time the state agency has taken regulatory action against the porn industry.

The citations against Evasive Angles and TTB Productions, which share the same Van Nuys address, come six months after an HIV outbreak involving four actors prompted a temporary shutdown of adult film production in Southern California. In the wake of the shutdown, Cal/OSHA officials said they would begin investigating the industry to determine whether it complied with state health and worker safety laws.

The companies received citations for violating the state's blood borne pathogen standard, a regulation that requires employers to protect workers exposed to blood or bodily fluids on the job.

"What this means is that any employer whose workers are exposed to any potentially infectious material, such as semen or vaginal fluids, must follow state regulations covering workplaces," said Susan Gard, a spokeswoman for Cal/OSHA, which issued the sanctions Wednesday. "Any bodily fluid is considered infectious. That means barrier equipment must be used."

Health officials have been urging adult film producers to require that all actors practice safe sex during filming, including wearing condoms. But gaining compliance has been a struggle.

Regulators and adult entertainment leaders agree that the vast majority of the Southland's 200 or so porn companies eschew safe sex practices in their films. Only about 17% of actors use condoms on a regular basis, according to the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, a nonprofit group that conducts sexually transmitted disease testing for the porn industry.

Moreover, many actors say producers refuse to hire them if they insist on practicing safe sex on the job.

Officials at Evasive Angles and TTB Productions could not be reached for comment. Cal/OSHA identified the owner of both companies as Phillip Rivera. The companies have 15 days to appeal the eight citations.

The citations accuse the companies of failing to notify authorities about actors who contracted HIV on the job, as the law requires. The producers also failed to have a written injury prevention program and report a workplace accident to Cal/OSHA within eight hours, as required by state law, agency officials said.

Reaction in the porn industry was mixed, with some questioning whether Cal/OSHA's actions would change filming practices.

"It doesn't matter what Cal/OSHA wants. It's a matter of Cal/OSHA's authority," said Jeffrey Douglas, an industry lawyer and chairman of Free Speech Coalition, a Chatsworth-based trade group for the adult entertainment industry.

The state agency has regulatory power over employees but not over contractors. Porn actors, many of whom are paid by the scene and change employers every day, "are not necessarily employees," Douglas said.

But actor Tony Tedeschi applauded the agency for taking action.

"I think it's about time the government addressed work safety issues that have been a problem for a long time," he said. "It's a good thing to see the government doing something."

Tedeschi, who has been in the industry for 15 years, said he did not insist on using condoms.

"If I did, I wouldn't be able to work," he said.

Actor Brandon Iron said he also welcomed Cal/OSHA's efforts but doubted they would make a difference.

"I'm not sure it's enough of a deterrent to other companies to change the way business is done," he said.

It is a widely held belief among producers that showing condom use in their films would hurt profits because the customers do not want to see safe sex.

The citations were the culmination of a months-long investigation of a complaint filed by a porn industry worker whom the agency declined to identify, citing confidentiality.

The agency, which oversees workplace health and safety, has not decided how it will carry out enforcement in the porn industry.

The agency sometimes conducts investigations only when a worker complains. But the agency has also conducted surprise "sweeps" at workplaces in certain high-risk industries, such as construction and agriculture, to inspect for violations, Gard said.

Employers must not just provide protective barriers to prevent workers from being exposed to fluids but must also "ensure that workers use them," she added.

Cal/OSHA has posted a page on the state government website, www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/adultfilmindustry.html, that instructs porn companies that they need to have an exposure control plan as well as worker safety training. Protective equipment, the site suggests, can include condoms, dental dams, gloves and eye protection. It also includes a link on "How to file a complaint with Cal/OSHA."

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