(Warning: This article discusses a sensitive topic and contains content that some may find offensive.)
The underlying premise was a serious one: a move was underway to protect workers from bio-hazards in the workplace. The fact that it is in an industry that one never normally thinks of from a workers' compensation perspective is what made the reactions to it, well, downright funny.
A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about an effort to place a mandatory condom requirement for Los Angeles adult film workers on the ballot in that city. You may read that story here. The reaction to it was somewhat predictable, as many shared my observation about the unique nature of this particular “workplace issue”. The comments from several of my obviously demented friends on the LinkedIn group Workers' Compensation Roundtable were extremely pointed, not to mention quite humorous.
Due to the popularity of the topic, and my vow to “research it fully”, I have looked into the matter more extensively, and have found some very interesting information.
Opponents of the Los Angeles ballot initiative claimed that it was needless; the state of California already has requirements in place to protect adult film workers. I wanted to know if that was true – if the state indeed had its hands wrapped around this issue. It appears that they do indeed.
It turns out that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) provides extensive guidance on the protection of adult film workers. According to DOSH, “A recent cluster of HIV infections in the adult film industry in Southern California has drawn attention to health hazards in these work places.” I am not sure I would use the word “cluster” when talking about adult film production, but that is their prerogative. The agency goes on to advise that all employers must comply with all relevant regulations, which are contained in Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations. This, of course, includes employers who produce porn.
DOSH advises, in compliance with Title 8 requirements, that adult film production companies must:
Follow a written safety and health program, known as an injury and illness prevention program, or IIPP. In simple terms, an IIPP identifies potential hazards specific to the workplace and ways to protect workers from those hazards
Train employees in health and safety hazards
Protect employees from electrical hazards, such as those associated with special lighting
Protect employees from hazards associated with blood borne pathogens
Provide sanitation facilities
Not discriminate against employees who complain about safety and health conditions.
DOSH further advises that all adult film workers, not just actors, must be protected from diseases caused by blood borne pathogens, including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. It states for the record:
“In addition to actors, employees in this industry at risk of becoming infected include people who clean up after scenes and people who assist in developing scenes, whether or not they are shown on film. If any sharps, such as razor blades or wires, are used (for shaving, piercing, etc.), they pose a particular risk for spreading infection because they can puncture the skin.”
The California agency advises that the blood borne pathogens standard “requires employers to use feasible engineering and work practice controls to protect workers from coming into contact with blood or other disease-carrying body fluids” Apparently these fluids are referred to in the standard as "other potentially infectious material", or "OPIM". (Not to be confused with OPM, or Other People's Money).
It turns out that semen and vaginal fluid are always considered OPIM. Additionally, “Any other body fluid is considered OPIM if it's visibly contaminated with blood. Saliva is considered OPIM in connection with dental procedures because these procedures routinely cause saliva to be contaminated with blood.”
The state makes no indication if any of the actions within adult videos constitute a “dental procedure”.
The state also provides guidance as to how adult film companies can employ “feasible engineering and work practice controls”. They are:
Simulation of sex acts using acting, production and post-production techniques (if they could act, would they really be doing porn?)
Ejaculation outside the partner's body (pretty self-explanatory)
Use of barriers, which protect the partner from contact with semen, vaginal fluids, mucous membranes, etc. Examples of barriers include condoms and dental dams (The dental dams were an unexpected requirement - More on those in a moment)
Plastic and other disposable materials to clean up sets (Swiffer WetJet?)
Sharps containers for disposal of any blades, wires or broken glass. (Apparently for S&M productions)
I should clarify the comments in parenthesis above are mine, and not from the State of California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
Finally DOSH advises “If, after using all practical engineering and work practice controls, workers are still exposed to hazards, employers must provide, and ensure employees use, appropriate personal protective equipment.” This personal protective equipment can include:
Condoms (I think this part is well understood)
Dental dams (Consider it a mini trampoline for the mouth)
Gloves (Latex, or those big bulky rubber kind?)
Eye protection (You'll shoot your eye out, kid)
Now, the Condoms, Gloves and Eye protection were pretty self-explanatory to me, however, I was not sure what a “Dental dam” was. Since I am a tireless researcher, I dug deep to find the answer, and thanks to Wikipedia, the always credible source that happened to pop up first in my Google search, I discovered that a “dental dam” is this:
Now, you will most likely recognize this as a device most commonly used by dentists to assist you in drooling on yourself, but Wikipedia also helpfully points out that these devices can indeed be used for safe sex practices, most commonly being recognized for their “use during cunnilingus and anilingus”.
It was at this point in my research I went home to shower, simply because I felt I needed to scrub that icky feeling away.
Ok, so now we are ready to suit up our adult film actors. For the guys, condoms, dental dams, gloves and safety goggles. For the gals, the same setup, but condoms would be optional, I suppose. The image in my mind is some freakish latex laden nerd porn – kind of “Revenge of the Nerds” meets “Debbie Does Dallas”.
The whole thing sounds ridiculous. But to their credit, DOSH does provide an out, saying “Cal/OSHA regulations do not require these barriers or personal protective equipment to be visible in the final product, and producers are free to use production and post-production editing techniques to remove them from the image.
Call George Lucas. His “Industrial Light and Magic” will be toiling for years to accomplish that, although many may be disappointed to realize their porn has been digitally enhanced, and is not the pure artistic product it portrays itself to be. But at least we can rest assured knowing that these adult films are being made responsibly, with the greatest of respect for our legal, ethical and social values.
Dental Dam photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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