Prior to becoming an adult entertainment attorney I was an employment and workers’ compensation attorney. I have probably handled over 3000 cases for both injured workers and employers. I have represented numerous employers including Fortune 500 aerospace defense contractors, major movie studios, hospitals, the Dodgers, LAPD, LAFD and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
I have represented workers with injuries ranging from simple knee sprains to amputated fingers, back injuries, liver failure and even work related death claims.
I have personally examined chemical plants, manufacturing companies and aerospace companies for safety violations and work place health issues.
Cal-OSHA, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Michael Weinstein would like you to believe that the straight adult entertainment industry in Los Angeles is nothing more than a disease filled cesspool of STIs and HIV. Cal-OSHA would like to treat semen as a hazardous material that any exposure to does results in an injury that requires immediate treatment. They would also like you to believe that all other industries are compliant with Cal-OSHA regulations and are clean and safe work environments. I can assure you that all of those assumptions are flawed.
The only way you can truly understand how dangerous being a pornstar is by looking to other industries’ injury rates for comparison purposes. In the last eight years I only know of one death that can be called work related since it occurred at the studio of a production company ( Please see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/02/swordwielding-attacker-ki_n_597599.html ). That incident involved one performer killing another performer and injuring two others. However, it was not related to condom use or barrier protection.
According to California’s Department of Industrial Relations there were 360 total work related deaths in 2011. The adult entertainment industry had no fatalities on-set in 2011. ( Please see: 2011CaliforniaFatalInjuries ). For 2012, I am unaware of any on-set fatalities as well. Through-out the history of the industry many pornstars and performers have met their untimely demise either from traffic accidents, overdosing on drugs, suicide and murder. However those deaths cannot be listed as work related deaths.
As for non-fatal injuries in 2010 (the 2011 study has not been release yet ), according to the Department of Industrial Relations there were a total of 14,255,000 Californians employed who reported a total of 464,100 work related injuries. The average incident rate for all employees in all industries was 4.2 injuries for every 100 workers in California ( Please see: 2010CaliforniaNonFatalInjuries )
If the industry employed an estimated 7500 on-set content production workers ( performers, videographers, photographers, lighting, production assistants, makeup artists ect ) in the year 2010 that means there should have been 315 significant on-set physical injuries or STI exposures in 2010 based on the average for all workers in the state of California ( Please see: 2010CaliforniaIncidentRates ). The highest injury incident rates were reported in law enforcement (12.2 injuries for every 100 employees) and the least dangerous industry in the report was Data processing, hosting, and related services (less then 1 injury for every 100 employees).
This is where the statistics become confusing. According to the United States Department of Labor, the flu and the common cold are expressly not included in their data for work related injuries ( Please see: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9636 ). This is despite the fact that many workers are in fact infected by a contagious co-worker. Anyone that has worked in an office environment knows how fast the flu can spread through an entire office staff. From a work injury perspective though it would be almost impossible to prove such infection was indeed caused by work or acquired from a co-worker. It really comes down to a matter of proof. How could an office worker conclusively prove that the flu contracted at work was from a co-worker and not from a spouse, child, friend or contracted in a non-work environment. Unless, of course, it was a rare strain of the influenza virus.
For example, let’s say Bob and Mary are co-workers. They are also a dating. Both Bob and Mary come down with the flu. Bob reports to his employer that he caught the flu at work from Mary and wants to file a workers compensation claim so he can receive medical treatment. Do you believe that he caught it from Mary at work ? I can assure you that his claim will be denied as being work related.
In the adult industry we face the same issues in regards to chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV and possibly herpes. The HIV virus, hepatitis B and syphilis are different since these infections are much more rare and can be tracked to a Patient Zero. Since all of the performers in porn have sex off set in their personal life with other performers or civilians (those that don’t work in porn) it would be nearly impossible to prove that a performer that tested positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV and/or herpes actually contracted it on set. As a matter of law, it is my belief that a Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board administrative law judge would find against a performer attempting to claim that chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV and/or herpes to be a work related injury. Unless they can conclusively prove that the only exposure occurred on-set, which is unlikely.
Therefore, removing chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV and herpes from the potential list of work related injuries that one can suffer on set, the adult industry might have lower than average work related injury rates. In 2010, we should have had an estimated 315 total work related injuries, physical and sexual STI injuries. It is impossible to know with certainty the actual number of 2010 work related physical injuries that occurred in adult entertainment since we are combined with other entertainment industries such as television and film for reporting purposes. However, Ballot Measure B will do nothing to alleviate any possible physical injury on set. Its only focus is on barrier protections to stop the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
Thus we are left to examine what evidence we do have about on-set sexual disease transmission that would be work related. The only evidence of a potential work related injury that may have occurred on an adult set in 2010 was a possible HIV transmission. There were no known reported syphilis or hepatitis cases in the industry in 2010. Therefore we are left with just one possible injury related to on set transmission.
That person is Derrick Burts. The same Derrick Burts that AHF is using to campaign for condoms in porn. How Derrick Burts contracted HIV is still a mystery. Burts was not only a male performer in the straight industry, he was also a male performer in the gay industry. He also admitted to placing an escort ad on a gay prostitute website to service male clients. However, he denied actually ever seeing any male clients. ( Please see: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/12/10/hiv-positive-porn-star-derrick-burts-gay-for-pay.html )
Despite Burts being HIV+ no female performers contracted HIV from him nor did any test positive that many have given it to him. However, he may have contracted it on a gay set in Florida. His exposure was tracked to a gay scene. He had performed in a gay movie with a known HIV+ male actor ( Please see: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/derrick-burts-hiv-in-pornography-the-naked-truth-2167532.html )
Thus, since AHF and Weinstein’s focus with “condoms in porn” is only on the straight side of the industry it would safe to conclude that Derrick Burts HIV was not a straight porn industrial injury rather one that occurred either in his private life, as a gay male escort or on a gay set. Therefore, once removed, there were no significant on-set transmissions of traceable industrial exposures to HIV, hepatitis or syphilis in 2010.
In 2011 there was one known false positive for an HIV transmission, no known reported syphilis or hepatitis B infections ( Please see: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/09/hiv-scare-that-led-to-porn-industry-shutdown-a-false-alarm.html ). And in 2012 there was only nine known reported performers that contracted syphilis on set ( Please see: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57498370-10391704/health-officials-9-syphilis-cases-in-la-porn-industry-outbreak-more-expected/ ). I am unaware that any additional cases of syphilis have been found in the last month. Therefore, it is likely that the number of industrial exposures will be limited to nine.
Without a comprehensive study into all work related injuries suffered on an adult entertainment set, physical and STIs, it is difficult as best and impossible at worst to fully understand to have a complete picture of industrial injuries and exposures on set employees might suffer. However, comparing the number of potentially life threatening on-set transmissions compared to the number of scenes shot in Los Angeles since 2004 (the last know HIV transmission on-set) the actual threat of a work related transmission is relatively minor and/or non-existent (again excluding common STIs that could not be conclusively proven to have occurred on set).
AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s support for Ballot Measure B is understandable. It is also understandable that an organization that provides HIV counseling, treatment and prevention measures does not truly understand California employment or workers’ compensation law. From a worker health and safety standpoint, Ballot Measure B is simply overkill. The industry has remained relatively free of life threatening infections for the past eight years.
The mainstream equivalent would be a ballot measure requiring all office workers in the state of California to wear face masks to prevent the transmission and spread of the cold or flu at work. It makes perfect sense but is it necessary. Would you want this to be you ?