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A Guide To Best Practice

Occupational Health and Safety in the Australian Sex Industry. Members of the Scarlet Alliance/AFAO OHS Working Group are: Sue Metzenrath, Sera Pinwill, Jenni Gamble, Maggie Moylan, Cheryl Mathews, Penelope Saunders, Gabby Skelsey, Felicity Lewis, Fiona Moran, Geoffrey Fysh


What is Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and what does it have to do with sex work in Australia?

OHS is a broad term used to refer to any issue, task or condition in the place where work is carried out that may have either a positive or negative impact on the health of the people who are working there.

In Australia all workers, no matter what industry they work in, have the right not to have their health put at risk through carrying out the normal requirements of their work. This basic right also applies to those working in the sex industry, even though due to its variable legal status across Australia, the industry has not historically been covered by legislative requirements of occupational health and safety.

OHS doesn’t just mean paying attention to cleanliness, fire extinguishers, repairing faulty electrical equipment. It is also about being aware of working conditions, which over time will have an impact on a person’s health and well-being. OHS is also about:

  • making sure that beds are in good repair and give proper support;
  • ensuring that outfits worn by workers when seeing clients are comfortable, and don’t restrict circulation or affect posture if worn for long periods without regular breaks, for example high heels;
  • supplying lubricants and massage oils which are non-allergenic;
  • ensuring that workers have adequate breaks between clients and between shifts, to avoid stress and fatigue.

It makes good business sense!

Aside from basic concern for sex worker’s health, and in some cases legislative requirements, there are many good reasons for sex industry workers, owners and managers to consider OHS issues in their workplaces. Such reasons include:

  • when workers are being exposed to unhealthy conditions the chances of them needing time off work through illness or injury are greatly increased. This results in loss of income for the individual and reduced business profit;
  • a work environment that is free from unsafe or unhealthy conditions is more attractive to clients and will result in increased business.

Displaying a commitment to recognised legitimate business practices and systems strengthens the sex industry’s image as a well managed, legitimate section of the business community. It also assists in gaining recognition from existing legislative bodies such as the Workers Compensation Tribunal or Occupational Health and Safety Authorities. This is particularly important in jurisdictions where decriminalisation is yet to occur.

This document has been developed to assist everyone in the Australian sex industry to achieve maximum satisfaction and wellbeing in their chosen workplace.


Glossary of Terms

Acknowledgments and Introduction to this Document

Background to Occupational Health and Safety in the Australian Sex Industry

  • Who is an employee