What is Horseplay?
Playing around, racing, grabbing, foolish vehicle operation, social pressure, harassment, and unauthorised contents are activities often encouraged by “practical jokers” who pressure other colleagues to get involved.
Playing jokes and having fun with colleagues can break up the day, provide stress-relief and make work more interesting, however horseplay can take this too far and put workers at risk.
Is it a Health and Safety Issue?
Cases involving horseplay are common in industrial workplaces such as construction sites, and often where forklift trucks are used. But other cases have included pharmacies, hospitals, and offices where pranks such as pulling out a chair has resulted in injury.
Regardless of the sector, it is management’s responsibility to ensure all employees have access to a safe, respectful, and harassment-free place to work.
The Health and Safety at Work Act does not specifically discuss horseplay but does make requirements for employees regarding health and safety. Section 7 of the Act requires employees to “take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work”.
Section 8 requires that no person shall intentionally interfere or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety and welfare. These duties extend to avoiding silly or reckless behaviour, and those who fail to comply with these duties may make themselves liable to be prosecuted.
It is most likely that employees will be prosecuted under section 7 where they have shown a reckless disregard for health and safety, and such disregard has resulted in serious risk.
It is a common misconception among employees that health and safety is the sole responsibility of the employer and if an accident or incident were to occur due to horseplay, that resulted in the injury of another person, it would be the employer that would have full responsibility. However, pranks at work that injure or threaten to injure another person may be the subject for individual prosecution against the person responsible.
The law of vicarious liability (where employers are responsible for the actions of their employees) has been steadily expanding, but there are areas where responsibility is still unlikely to arise on the part of the employer.
Tips to Prevent Horseplay for Employees:
- Not engage or participate in any type of unsafe behaviour or horseplay, initiate it, or get pressured into participating in it
- Follow all regulations and work rules to ensure the safety of individuals or other employees
- Ensure protective equipment is used properly and operating machinery is in good repair and does not present a hazard
- Report those behaving in an unprofessional or unsafe way to a supervisor or manager.
Tips to Prevent Horseplay for Managers:
- Provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees
- Take all precautions necessary to protect the safety and health of employees
- Outline policies against workplace horseplay in your employee manual
- Educate and train employees on workplace safety
- Be an example of professionalism and not engage in any inappropriate behaviour or horseplay.
Are You Concerned About Employee Behaviour?
Optimum Safety can help you put the correct policies and procedures in place, alongside employee training, to help create safer workspaces.