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Attorney Ron Sokol: Regulation of the adult film industry

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Q: I read about an actor infecting others while making an adult film. Is the porn industry regulated by anyone? – R.A., Palos Verdes

A: Significant effort is being made to place an issue on the June 2012 ballot in Los Angeles County so voters can decide if porn producers must require use of condoms as a condition to obtaining a film permit.

The proposed ordinance would also allow the city to impose a fee on adult film producers sufficient to pay for periodic inspections for enforcement purposes. Industry representatives insist, however, there is a genuine level of self-policing.

Research indicates that porn actors are required by law to test negative for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases within 30 days of going to work on a film. The California Occupational Safety and Health Act imposes a number of requirements on the industry, such as (a) Following a written safety and health program (known as an injury and illness prevention program, or IIPP). The IIPP identifies possible hazards particular to the workplace, and the means of protecting workers from those hazards; (b) Protecting as well as training employees in health and safety hazards, including electrical issues (e.g., special lighting); and (c) Protecting employees from hazards associated with bloodborne pathogens. This latter risk can result in HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. But, it is not just actors in the adult film industry who are at risk of infection; it includes those who deal with the sets, and who assist in developing scenes.

If all practical engineering and work practice controls are in place, but workers are still exposed to hazards, employers in the adult film business must provide, as well as make sure employees utilize, appropriate personal protective equipment (which can include condoms and gloves). A summary on current regulations affecting the adult film industry can be found online at In addition, workplace safety officials are taking steps to clarify an existing regulation that directs nurses and medical professionals to wear gloves at work, to specify condom use in porn as well.

Q: I was injured while working as a cameraman on an adult film. The site was dangerous, but the company running things turned a deaf ear. I can sue for my injuries, but what about getting these people to film their movies in a safe environment? If I complain, what happens, if anything? Won’t they just retaliate against me? – L.G., San Pedro

A: You can file a complaint with Cal/OSHA, which is part of the California Department of Industrial Relations; or you can call 213-237-9958 to register your complaint. Your name will be kept confidential. Once a health or safety complaint is made, the Cal/Osha inspector should visit the worksite, or the employer’s office, and investigate the conditions.

A citation may be issued, which can require fixing the problem(s), and which might also require payment of a civil penalty. Further, it is not lawful for an employer to retaliate or discriminate against a worker who complains about unsafe working conditions. While the adult film industry may engage in images and activities that seem out of the ordinary (at least compared with many other businesses), the filmed product is not the key; employers in the adult film industry are indeed subject to the law and to government regulation. And, more regulation is certainly not being ruled out as indicated above.


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