Rough, boisterous play or pranks in the workplace can have serious consequences. We look at key cases involving practical jokes at work and offer tips on how to prevent horseplay.
What is horse play?
Playing around, racing, grabbing, thoughtless vehicle operation, social pressure, harassment, and unauthorised contests 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.
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 1974 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.
However, acts that are not directly related to work, and are more of a personal nature will not be within scope, such as an employee assaulting a supervisor because he believed the supervisor had stolen his wallet.
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.
Who is responsible?
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 has been steadily expanding, but there are areas where responsibility is still unlikely to arise on the part of the employer.
Last month IOSH magazine reported on Chell v Tarmac  EWHC 2613, the latest decision to demonstrate that it will be difficult for an employee to succeed where they have been the victim of a practical joke played on them by a colleague.
Employers cannot rule out that horseplay at work can result in injury and there are cases where they can be held liable for the actions of their employees. To help prevent this, they need to have appropriate policies and procedures in place relating to horseplay that informs employees of the consequences of inappropriate behaviour at work and set out clearly what is considered acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
Tips to prevent horse play.
• 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.
• 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.
Contact us if you require further information.
As staff enter the latest COVID-19 lockdown and this coincides with shorter, darker days, managers may find it useful to share information on how best to beat symptoms of the winter blues — or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — wherever employees are working.
According to the NHS, symptoms of SAD can include:
•a persistent low mood
•a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
•feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
•feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
•sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
•craving carbohydrates and gaining weight.
For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities. Workers should consider seeing their GP if they are struggling to cope and the doctor will most likely assess their mental health, asking questions about their mood, lifestyle, eating habits and sleeping patterns, plus any seasonal changes in their thoughts and behaviour.
It is thought that lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the production of melatonin and serotonin (the neurotransmitters responsible for sleep and mood) as well as the body’s internal body clock.
A range of treatments are available for SAD but the most common treatments include:
•lifestyle measures ― getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing stress levels
•light therapy, where a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight
•talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling
•antidepressant medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Eating well can help too: people should drink lots of water and eat foods containing omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and mackerel) and amino acids (such as eggs, nuts, fish, whole grains and spinach). These foods are readily converted into serotonin, which may help to boost mood.
Search out previous blogs for advice. How to help someone with SAD.
When managing health and safety at work, it’s easy to focus on just the physical hazards of the workplace. This is where most of the legislation lies, with the biggest penalties being dealt out for non-compliance.
However, employee wellbeing addresses both the physical and emotional health of employees. Aiming to prevent problems arising or, if they do, helping employees to cope with them. This allows the issues to have a minimal impact on their work.
Research shows that having positive wellbeing in the workplace leads to an increase in motivation and productivity, whilst reducing absenteeism and staff turnover. Therefore, creating a workplace culture which supports employee wellbeing should be the goal of any business.
While the benefits are obvious, the negatives of not looking after employee wellbeing speak loudly. With the Centre for Mental Health suggesting that UK companies lose £34.9 billion in productivity because of mental health issues alone.
Don’t limit your business to just health and risk assessments, ensure you improve wellbeing for your employees outside of the legal requirements. Let’s look at some ways you can below.
You can set aside funds to encourage the activeness of employees or improve workplace facilities. Whether that be through infrastructure or through education, there are a few key areas you can focus on.
This is the most simple way to improve physical wellbeing, make your employees more physically active. To improve physical wellbeing, an employee doesn’t need to spend hours in the gym but simply move around the office more.
This can be encouraged by implementing an initiative in the workplace where you educate employees on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and encourage them to stand up and move throughout the day.
Though it is important to note this “policy” idea is intended to provide permission to employees to get up and moving; it is not meant to be policed.
Funds can also be spent on equipment such as standing desks or a foot peddler to improve their health. Or for those employees who are interested in working out at a local gym, you could look for a group discount to provide them with.
• Educational workshops
• Policy/initiatives in the workplace with group walks
• Discounted/free gym memberships
• Weekly/monthly exercise classes at the workplace
• Equipment such as standing desks
Diet is an important factor in an employee’s physical wellbeing. Over a long working day, it’s inevitable they’ll want a snack at some point. As an employer, you can encourage wellbeing with healthy and nutritional snacks around the workplace.
You can go a step further and ensure there are healthy options when holding workplace functions or events. Always opt for a healthier set of dishes for your employees.
Allowing for an adequate space where employees can store and prepare food also promotes healthy eating. Many convenient lunch meal deals from supermarkets or corner shops are either very calorific or offer little nutritional value. This allows employees to bring in healthier options.
• Healthy snacks at work
• Healthy food at work events
• Adequate food storage and preparation equipment at work
Sleep deprivation plays a big part in an employee’s wellbeing. If you lack sleep every night, there are some serious ramifications for your long-term health. Research shows that as a result of less sleep, individuals “move slower, have trouble concentrating, become forgetful, make bad decisions, are more irritable, and show visible signs of sleeplessness.”
How can you promote better sleep habits? Encourage employees to take regular breaks and ensure there are reasonable work schedules in place. Promote or provide tips for good sleep at home such as limiting screen time and avoiding stimulants like caffeine too close to bedtime.
• Reasonable work schedules
Mental wellbeing in the workplace is something that is incredibly important towards a productive business but is often last on the list of priority.
As mental health is almost invisible compared to physical health, it can often go by the wayside even to those suffering. This leads to an inevitable crash at work if you do not encourage positive mental health wellbeing.
Here are some ways you can encourage mental wellbeing in your workforce.
• Invest in an EAP
• Provide mental health resources and programmes
Providing employees with external support measures, such as EAPs, are a great option. However, if you engage with employees, this is a great way to encourage wellbeing alongside this.
If you show you care in the workplace, it can help foster positive wellbeing and bring a workforce closer together.
Whether that be through more one-on-one meetings and recognition, or with events paid for by the company. When talking to an employee, show you care about them as a person, ask about their life, talk about their career and goals rather than just job performance and just engage with them.
We hope this has been useful. Remember to share this information with others in the company.
Contact us if you require further information.
Guest Blog with David Price from Health Assured https://www.healthassured.org/. Thank you!
Menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t menstruated in 12 consecutive months and can no longer become pregnant naturally. It usually begins between the ages of 45 and 55, but can develop before or after this age range.
Menopause can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as hot flashes and weight gain. For most women, medical treatment isn’t needed for menopause.
100% of women will go through menopause but that’s nothing new. What has changed is women’s role in the UK workforce.
Women currently comprise nearly half the UK workforce and the number of older UK women in employment has been rising for a number of years alongside the rising retirement age.
As a result of this more women are experiencing menopause whilst working. Moreover, growth in female leadership means the number of women in senior roles is rising and will continue to do so.
So, menopause is more relevant in the workplace today than it was even 20 years ago because women are working longer and they’re working in more senior positions too. The menopause symptoms women will experience can affect performance at work and impact relationships with managers, colleagues and clients.
Symptoms include poor memory and concentration resulting in an inability to recall facts, figures and names leading to a loss of confidence with colleagues and clients. Hot flushes aren’t just uncomfortable they’re embarrassing too. How would you feel about leading an internal meeting or pitching to clients when you’re at risk of visibly breaking into a sweat every 30 minutes?
The good news is with the right support and access to balanced expert information women can successfully learn to manage symptoms at work and at home too.
Start by reviewing the occupational health and wellbeing documentation you may have in place. If you require this documentation, please contact us.
Updating your occupational health and wellbeing documentation is just one way your organisation can support female employees through menopause.
In the meantime, if you have any queries, please contact us.
Alternatively, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the range of solutions available to your organisation to minimise the impact of menopause in the workplace.
This year’s theme is kindness, with the week running from 18 – 24 May 2020.
The focus on kindness is a response to the coronavirus outbreak, which is having a big impact on people’s mental health. Being kind can significantly improve our physical and emotional wellbeing – whether we are giving or receiving it. There have even been scientific studies into the effects of kindness, showing that acts of kindness help your immune system, reduces stress, gives you energy and are good for your heart! The power of being kind goes even further, it has been proven to slow ageing, improve relationships and it’s contagious!
Some people have mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, which means they have feelings that won’t go away and which start to really affect day-to-day life.
We would like to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health. Have you carried out any acts of kindness recently? Here at WHSS we gave chocolates to a care home. Let us know in the comments below on Twitter and LinkedIn.
If you’re worried about mental health, wellbeing, or if you have any questions, speak to a friend, relative or your GP.
Contact us to offer guidance at this time.