Horseplay in the Workplace – Not Worth the Risk

Woman Holding Wet Floor Sign Behind Back as Two Male Coworkers Slip

Horseplay in the Workplace – Not Worth the Risk

prank /praNGk/ – a practical joke or mischievous act

With April 1st comes April Fool’s Day and usually an onslaught of trickery and deception. This is the day we are cautious in trusting even our closest friends and family (even our 6-year-old).

While most April Fool’s Day pranks are innocent and wouldn’t cause any harm, there are individuals who make pranking and horseplay a regular year-round practice. One specific place pranking and horseplay doesn’t belong is the workplace. Each year there are hundreds of injuries from pulling pranks at work. A prank gone wrong can cause serious injuries, permanent disability, or even death. On the insurance side of things, your workers’ compensation claims from injuries sustained during horseplay and pranking could be denied due to involvement of the affected employee, company policy, and/or your individual state workers’ compensation laws.

It’s not uncommon for workers to need to step away, if only for a moment, to escape the stress and routine of their day-to-day work. It’s in these moments that horseplay often ensues. Employers have a legal obligation to eliminate or mitigate hazards that threaten employees. In fact, OSHA’s General Duty Clause, 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, requires each employer provide employees with a safe work environment that’s free of recognized hazards.

In some instances, the injured party could pursue legal action against the person who injured them. The courts have held that these injuries are not the result of an accident but are deliberate acts. With all that in mind, most employers have polices prohibiting any form of horseplay, and violations of such a policy could lead to immediate termination.

An example of a seemingly harmless prank would be one using air. From tire repair shops to manufacturing facilities to cabinet shops, compressed air is used in many industries. Many have seen this tool to get their buddy back. I mean, it’s just air, right? Wrong!

    • Flying particles and debris can result in eye injuries, cuts/scrapes, or other significant injuries to almost any body part.
    • High pressure air can result in air injection into the body leading to potential injuries such as air embolism, ruptured ear drums or organs, and dislodged eyeballs.
    • High noise can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss.

OSHA recognizes the dangers of compressed air and spells out requirements used for cleaning in 1910.242(b):


Compressed air used for cleaning. Compressed air shall not be used for cleaning purposes except where reduced to less than 30 PSI, and then only with effective chip guarding and personal protective equipment.



horseplay /’hȏrs,plā/ – rough or boisterous play

If this description of the results of pranking and horseplay with compressed air wasn’t convincing enough, the 2016 article below outlines how horseplay quickly led to a workplace fatality.

Male Employee With Pink Kick Me Sticky Note On Back

Co-workers just goofing around led to a prank that caused a man’s death. Workers who were cleaning and rehabilitating some Milwaukee apartments first removed a hot water heater and tossed it over the railing onto the ground below, [from] the third-floor apartment. The men then decided to drop a 170-pound refrigerator from a fourth-floor porch on top of the discarded hot water heater. A worker on the ground below jokingly said that he would catch the airborne refrigerator. Just after saying this the man was distracted by a phone call and tragically walked into the path of the falling fridge [causing his death].

Source: “Safety in the Workplace: When Horseplay Turns Tragic,” by Hank Stout, Sutliff & Stout Injury & Accident Law Firm, June 2016

What can you do as an employer to prevent horseplay?

    • Lead by example.
    • Have a policy that clearly states that employees are to refrain from engaging in horseplay and have a procedure for employees to report unsafe behaviors.
    • Provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.
    • Ensure that employees understand and follow company operating practices and safety procedures.

What can you do as an employee?

    • Don’t initiate horseplay and don’t get pressured into participating in it.
    • Avoid being distracted at work.
    • If you see someone behaving in an unprofessional or unsafe way at work, report it to a supervisor.
    • Follow instructions and obey the safety rules designed for your protection.



Our passion is protecting your passion. Contact our team here at Tower Street Insurance or call (214) 214-RISK today to discuss your loss control plan before workplace horseplay causes a preventable accident!



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