Standards Board Chair threatens to quit over delay in rubber-stamping AHF’s anti-adult biz proposal. “Many people think it’s time for Dave Thomas to leave anyway.” – Safety Community Person
Dangerous precedent: that any squeaky wheel, which rolls loud enough, gets a standard.
On April 3, the 45-day comment period on the Cal/OSHA draft porn regs begins. It concludes with a May 21 public hearing.
From the Cal/OSHA Reporter —
SACRAMENTO – Month after month, like squeaky wheels, activists representing the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a small [sic] special interest group, show up at Cal/OSHA Standards Board meetings. They demand action on its petition to require condoms for adult film productions. The organization filed its petition nearly five years ago.
But the petitioners are in direct conflict with the adult film industry. It’s the AIDS group demanding the standard, versus the industry members who contend there are already enough safeguards in place.
Further, complicating AHF’s petition is the fact that in the event of an infection there is no proof the virus came from a performance (or specific other performer) let alone for which of several employers the actor may have been working. For that matter the industry has held, even if it is actually an industrial injury or came from paid or unpaid outside activities.
Following another demonstration – dozens of people attended the March 19 board meeting, several of whom addressed the board demanding action on the petition – Standards Board chair Dave Thomas said he has “had enough.” He said he has promised the organization action on the petition several times, but it has been delayed at higher levels and other agencies. The board faced a March 24 deadline to publish the proposal for the May 21 public hearing in San Diego, and he was not optimistic that it would happen.
“I will tell you this,” Thomas stated. “If it’s delayed one more month after May, I’m going to resign. Four-and-a-half years? Really?”
One community member, who asked to remain anonymous, told Cal-OSHA Reporter later by phone “Many people think it’s time for Dave to leave anyway.”
The source went to say that other people are offended by this standard in the first place. “The government can’t protect everyone, particularly those who choose to engage in risky behavior, from everything.”
The words of Thomas and occupational safety representative Laura Stock, who asked board staff to convey the body’s concerns about the “outrageous” delay apparently lit a fire in the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency, (LWDA), where the proposal has been sitting since it was approved by the Department of Industrial Relations.
On March 23, board Executive Officer Marley Hart told Cal-OSHA Reporter that the package had been approved by LWDA and submitted to the Office of Administrative Law that afternoon. The official notice is slated to be published on April 3, starting a 45-day comment period that ends with the May 21 public hearing.
The petition continues to be hotly opposed by the adult film industry, which insists that its testing protocols are sufficient, and has even gone so far as to threaten that it will move out of state if performers are forced to use condoms. Industry sources point out that consumers do not want to watch porn where condoms are used.
This subject is a sensitive one among some safety professionals, who find it objectionable, and not on a par with other workplace hazards. But the push by the AIDS special interest group has dropped the issue squarely in Cal/OSHA’s lap and it is now one big step closer to a formal regulation.
Cal/OSHA’s position at this point is that since adult film is a recognized and legal business the performers deserve protection from exposure to illness in the course of their work.
In several instance in recent years, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health has cited porn production companies for allowing workers to be exposed to bloodborne pathogens.
Since the petition was filed in 2010, a number of adult film performers have contracted [HIV], although the industry insists that the performers likely were infected off the set. But the red-shirted activists – paid or unpaid – at the meeting say otherwise. “Instead of common sense, use condom sense,” one said. AHF communications director Ged Kenslea commented, “We do not believe that workers in the adult film industry are disposable.”
Former porn performer and AHF spokesperson Sofia Delgado was infected with the [HIV] virus just two months into her “career.” She said a fellow performer told her when she first started that it was not a matter of “if” she became infected with a sexually transmitted disease by working in the industry, but “when.” She urged the board for action on the petition.
AHF representative Adam Cohen promised to haunt the Standards Board until that happened, asking if some “hidden hand” was delaying publication. “We’re not going away,” he said.
AHF has long packed Standards Board meetings with supporters, but longtime board meeting attendees have wondered aloud to Cal-OSHA Reporter if those showing up at the Northern California meetings were really affiliated with the organization, or picked up right off the street. After the March 19 meeting, one longtime safety professional told Cal-OSHA Reporter that she questioned one of the red-shirted protesters and was told that she was “paid” to attend the meeting.
Kenslea responds that many of the advocates at the May 21 meeting are AHF clients. “As for their ‘off the street’ appearance,” he adds, “AHF’s client base is largely under-served, often minority populations – frequently covered by Medicaid or other government assistance programs. The tee shirts were, in fact, distributed to the advocates as they got off the buses in Sacramento.”
As for being paid, Kenslea says that is not so. “However, he acknowledges, “each received a gift or debit card to cover meals and/or miscellaneous snacks on their trips up to and back from Sacramento.” Some traveled from Los Angeles, and received cards worth up to $25, he said; $15 for those who traveled from San Francisco.
Hart said she doesn’t believe that a “hidden hand” has been at work, just a complicated proposal with economic impact as a major factor. The proposal would revise the bloodborne pathogens standard, General Industry Safety Orders §5193, but is really a new regulation. “It does a lot more than regulate bloodborne pathogens,” she said. “It goes into infections, so there are other requirements that are embodied in this new regulation.”
Once the public hearing is held, the board will have one year to take action.
They’ll also have to decide if this sets a new precedent: That any squeaky wheel, which rolls loud enough, gets a standard.