Today is Wednesday 1st April 2020. April Fool's Day. A day traditionally set aside for pranks and practical jokes. In the workplace, these acts of horseplay can and do cause accidents, can get out of hand, and can wreck lives.
This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, workplace practical joking may be limited, but it will still happen. With hospitals at breaking point, and businesses struggling to adapt, the last thing anyone wants is the situation making worse.
"Horseplay" means fooling around. Fooling around is not acting in a safe manner. It is an unsafe act.
Under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, employees have a legal duty to look after themselves and others. Horseplay is not doing this.
Under the same Act, employers have to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Allowing, or even participating in, horseplay is not doing this.
Horseplay can be a friendly way to let off steam. And let's face it, we all want to do that at the moment.
But horseplay can be dangerous in the workplace because when you are engaging in horseplay, you are not concentrating on your work. Poor concentration makes it less likely you will notice hazards until it is too late.
Those you are directing the horseplay at are not expecting the distraction and could easily have an accident such as falling into a moving machine part, slipping on the floor, or dropping a tool.
Running, chasing, or pushing can cause slips, trips, falls, and other accidents. You might not notice spills or items lying on the floor. You could crash into, or push someone else into, heavy equipment or moving parts. You could knock materials onto a person, or knock over open containers of hazardous substances.
Throwing tools is a frequent cause of injuries. This is more likely if you are enforcing social distancing. The tools may stab someone with a sharp edge. They could hit someone in the head, eye, foot, etc., and cause an injury or death. If the tool falls from a height and hit a person below with great force.
Messing around with PPE can damage it and expose you or another worker to a hazardous substance. Some types of PPE are currently in high demand due to coronavirus, so you are adding to the national resource issues.
Speeding or dangerous driving with a forklift truck may cause it to tip over or hit people or objects, possibly injuring the driver or pedestrians. Climbing on or under forklift forks or moving crane parts can cause you to get crushed or pushed.
Pushing, teasing, or otherwise distracting people working with machinery could cause pinch point or other injuries.
Practical jokes such as “hiding” someone’s PPE, dropping your half of a load, turning out lights, etc., are not funny—they’re dangerous. They are against the law.
Every employee is responsible for performing their job correctly, which includes safely. Safety rules and procedures are designed to protect all employees.
Everyone must follow safety rules. Failure to follow the rules is dangerous—for you and for others. Horseplay can lead to disciplinary action and even dismissal.
Don’t indulge in horseplay or accuse those who won’t go along of having “no sense of humour.”
Think how bad you would feel if your horseplay injured or sickened someone else—maybe seriously. Don't add to the burden our NHS is currently under.
Don’t allow other people to engage you in horseplay.
Stay safe. Work safe. If you can, work from home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.