Sunday is the first of April, April Fool’s Day. Its origins are uncertain, but this unofficial holiday is a time for pranks, jokes and hoaxes. Beware of what you see, read and hear on the radio, TV and, above all, the Internet on Sunday.
But if your interest is safety, you need to keep April Fool’s Day out of your workplace.
Pranks and practical jokes in the workplace undermine safety in all sorts of ways. Want some real life example of jokes gone bad?
Consider the humorist who decides to nail his workmate’s boots to the floor. The victim nearly sprains his back pulling them free. And the boots now have holes in the soles, making them useless as safety footwear.
Another prank, traditionally played on all new workers at a certain facility, involves pushing the victim under the showers. This particular time, though, the victim is taped into a chair. No-one realizes that the water pouring over him is hot until he begins screaming. The victim receives third-degree scalds.
One man, startled by the old “joke” involving a spring-loaded cloth snake in a harmless-looking tin labeled “nuts,” jerks his head backward and slams it into a steel shelf, requiring eight stitches.
Sometimes, the recipient of a “joke” becomes violent. Michael Keith Williams of Roanoke, VA, stabbed Jonathan Freel to death in the parking lot of a sports bar after the victim gives Williams’s friend a “wedgie.”
A South Carolina student jumps a train with friends as a prank, but falls from the train and is run over.
Sheridan “Danny” Dalqhuist’s Bradley University, IL, roommates set off fireworks in his dorm room, intending to send him running outside in his underwear. The room catches fire and Dalqhuist dies.
A 12-year old Manchester boy pushes a 14-year-old into a local river as a birthday prank. The older boy can’t swim. He drowns.
Even if a prank goes off “harmlessly” as planned, there can be unpleasant results. The victim may feel resentful, which can poison the atmosphere at your workplace and make working together uncomfortably stressful. Or the victim may try to exact revenge, leading to a series of escalating pranks, which may eventually hurt someone.
So instead of encouraging or playing tired old gags on April Fool’s Day, why not spare a thought for safety and suggest your workers do the same? Because there are plenty of old jokes around, and not as many old workers as there ought to be.