Health and Safety in the Adult Film Industry

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Adult film industry workers face serious health risks due to potential infection with HIV and other pathogens transmitted through sexual contact

Infections that can be transmitted through sexual contact include the following:


  • Hepatitis A virus (HAV) – Can cause liver failure
  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV) – Can cause liver scarring (cirrhosis) and liver cancer
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV) – Can cause liver scarring (cirrhosis) and liver cancer
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV) – Can cause painful skin sores, bladder problems, meningitis, rectal inflammation, and serious infection of babies born to infected mothers
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – Can harm the eyes, heart, kidneys, liver, bones, and brain, and can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which severely weakens the immune system and can lead to death
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) – Can cause genital warts and cancer

Other Types of Infections

  • Chlamydia – Can cause chronic pain, infertility, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy
  • Gonorrhea – Can cause chronic pain, infertility, and life-threatening infection
  • Syphilis – Can damage the heart, brain, and other organs
  • Trichomoniasis – Can cause genital inflammation in persons who develop symptoms and increase the risk of getting or spreading other infections, like HIV

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Proper use of condoms and other control measures can prevent or reduce the risk of infection


The infections listed below are primarily transmitted through direct contact with the semen, vaginal fluids, or other secretions of an infected person. Proper use of condoms can greatly reduce the risk of the other person being infected.

  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • HIV
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis

The infections listed below are primarily transmitted through direct contact with the mucous membranes, infected skin sores, or intact skin of an infected person. Proper use of condoms can reduce the risk of the other person being infected.

  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Syphilis

Hygienic Practices

The virus listed below is primarily transmitted through ingestion of fecal matter from an infected person. Using thorough hygienic practices to prevent fecal matter from coming into contact with a person’s mouth can help prevent the person from being infected. (Vaccination, however, is the most effective means of preventing hepatitis A transmission for persons at risk of infection.)

  • Hepatitis A virus


The full series of vaccinations given at a certain point before exposure can help prevent a person from being infected with the following viruses:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Human papilloma virus

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP), which involves taking medicines daily and always using a condom, can help prevent a person from being infected with the following virus:

  • HIV

Treatment as Prevention (TasP)

Proper use of anti-viral medications by persons infected with the following viruses can markedly reduce, although not completely eliminate, the risk of their sexual partners becoming infected:

  • Herpes simplex virus
  • HIV


Testing for the pathogens listed below can detect a current infection. However, a negative test result is not a guarantee of the absence of infection, because tests often cannot detect infection in the earliest stages. Furthermore, even in later stages, a “negative” test result can sometimes be false, such as when the person is taking antiviral or antibiotic medications.

  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • HIV
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis

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Cal/OSHA requires employers in the adult film industry to provide and ensure the use of condoms and implement other measures to protect employees from sexually transmitted infections

The Cal/OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard (found in California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 5193) requires employers to protect the health and safety of employees through “universal precautions,” an approach to infection control that treats all blood and certain other human body fluids as if they contained bloodborne pathogens, including:

  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • HIV
  • Syphilis

In observance of universal precautions under the BBP standard, employers must provide and require employees to use protective barriers and implement feasible administrative and work practice controls to prevent employees from coming into contact with blood, semen and vaginal fluids. Protective barriers include, for example, condoms for performers and gloves for employees who clean up after scenes.

The BBP standard also requires employers to do the following:

  • Offer the hepatitis B vaccine series to employees who may come in direct contact with the blood, semen, or vaginal fluid of another person
  • When an exposure incident occurs:
  • Offer a confidential medical evaluation to the exposed employee
  • Test the other person’s blood for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, make the test results available to the exposed employee, and provide treatment and counseling to the exposed employee as required under section 5193, subsection (f)(3).
  • Ensure the confidentiality of medical records of employees
  • Train employees at least annually about bloodborne pathogens, including an explanation of the employer’s exposure control plan and what an employee can do if exposed

The Cal/OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Program standard (found in California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 3203) requires employers to identify and evaluate workplace hazards and correct unsafe or unhealthful conditions. Under this standard, adult film industry employers must implement control measures to protect employees from any of the infections discussed above.

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Although Cal/OSHA requirements do not cover workers who are independent contractors, a worker may be an “employee” even if the employer calls the worker an independent contractor

Cal/OSHA requirements  cover workers who are “employees.” They do not cover workers who are “independent contractors.” In other words, Cal/OSHA does not have jurisdiction over the safety and health of independent contractors.

Whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor depends on the nature of the relationship between the employer and the worker. Cal/OSHA jurisdiction is not defined by whether an employer calls a worker an independent contractor, nor is it defined by whether the worker receives a 1099 form instead of a W-2 form at the end of the tax year.

Both Cal/OSHA and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement start with the presumption that a worker is an employee. Then, the most significant factor to be considered is the following:

  • Whether the person to whom service is rendered (the employer or principal) has control or the right to control the worker both as to the work done and the manner and means in which it is performed. In other words, if a producer tells a worker what to do, when to do it, and how to do it—and pays the worker for the work—the worker may be an employee and not an independent contractor. In contrast, two sole proprietors who freely decide how to perform the activities being recorded or uploaded via livestream and freely decide whether to use barrier protection may be independent contractors.

Additional factors include:

  • Whether the person performing services is engaged in an occupation or business distinct from that of the principal;
  • Whether or not the work is a part of the regular business of the principal or alleged employer;
  • Whether the principal or the worker supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place for the person doing the work;
  • The alleged employee's investment in the equipment or materials required by his or her task or his or her employment of helpers;
  • Whether the service rendered requires a special skill;
  • The kind of occupation, with reference to whether, in the locality, the work is usually done under the direction of the principal or by a specialist without supervision;
  • The alleged employee's opportunity for profit or loss depending on his or her managerial skill;
  • The length of time for which the services are to be performed;
  • The degree of permanence of the working relationship;
  • The method of payment, whether by time or by the job; and
  • Whether or not the parties believe they are creating an employer-employee relationship may have some bearing on the question, but is not determinative since this is a question of law based on objective tests.

No single factor is dispositive. The decision maker must weigh all of the factors present in a specific work situation to determine whether an employment relationship exists.

For further explanation, see DLSE’s FAQs: Independent Contractor versus Employee.

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Employees can call or visit Cal/OSHA to obtain more information or file a complaint

For more information

  • If you have questions about sexually transmitted infections, call Cal/OSHA Research and Standards at (510) 286-7011.
  • If you have questions about other matters concerning workplace safety and health, call Cal/OSHA Consultation Services at (800) 963-9424.

To file a complaint about a workplace hazard

Employees can also file a complaint with Cal/OSHA. Cal/OSHA keeps the identities of complainants confidential, unless the complainant requests otherwise. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate or discriminate against an employee who files a complaint with Cal/OSHA.

For more information about the rights of employees and what happens after an employee files a complaint with Cal/OSHA, see Health & Safety Rights: Facts for California Workers.


January 2018