Practical jokes or horseplay are always fun and games until somebody gets hurt. What was fun suddenly can turn into a disaster in a variety of ways, which is why in most cases management frowns upon any practical joke or horseplay.

What Can Go Wrong

Death. Yup, in some workplaces there have been accidents go wrong. There’s plenty of other ‘less serious’ injuries too of course. When an injury does occur is when things start to get messy.

Example: A construction worker from South Dakota successfully sued his employer after he was injured during horseplay with a coworker. Initially the employee wasn’t given workers’ compensation due to the nature of the injury and how it occurred. Eventually the case went to the Supreme Court and the employee won. At the time of the injury he was waiting for another job to be completed so he could begin his role and the final ruling in his favor was “act of horseplay was not a substantial deviation from his employment”.

Easy to see why horseplay is frowned against right?

How To Remove Horseplay From The Workplace Which Is Against The S.A.F.E. model

S = Stays in Control: When horseplay goes too far, emotions are brought to the surface. This can be in a harmless way in terms of competitiveness but some people take losing personally. Other times anger can develop and end up in violence.

A = Aware of Surroundings: Horseplay takes focus, and you suddenly find yourself vulnerable to collisions with stuff all around you. That plant you’ve never seen before? That suddenly comes into the firing line causing a mess and potential injury. You get the idea.

F = Follows Rules: This is tough as some workplaces should have a zero horseplay policy already given their dangers (example: sky rise window washers). For those who struggle to stay within a set of rules, you really need to educate them on what is and isn’t acceptable.

E = Exhibits Caution: Actively engaging in horseplay is definitely not under the definition of being careful. The increased exposure to risk suddenly reaches an extreme level of risk when their instincts always take things a little bit too far due to the extreme focus on horseplay.

When There Are Exceptions

If you look at the ‘cool’ companies such as Google, you could mistake them for embracing horseplay with ball pits and slides in their offices which is screaming out for horseplay. They get by as they make it very clear these ‘fun’ activities are designed to help productivity, not for a distraction.

Horseplay is usually harmless, but when things go bad, they go bad quickly. It doesn’t matter if it’s horseplay, practical jokes, playing around or fooling about, management should frown upon this behavior. Getting sued is no fun.