Even the most stolid among us would struggle to keep a straight face amid such shenanigans. But when horseplay (bear-play?) goes wrong, the consequences can be severe and far-reaching.
However funny for the onlookers of the prank seen below (not so funny for the terrified worker fleeing for dear life), the outcome of this spectacle has WCB implications written all over it.
For clarity on this matter, let’s turn to WCB’s policy manual. In respect of horseplay, the policy states that “WCB generally provides compensation to a nonparticipating worker if it can be established that the nonparticipant was in the course of employment at the time of injury.”
Straightforward enough, right?
The target of the bear-play is clearly an unwitting participant, and indeed, should an injury arise ex post facto, the employer should brace for a costly WCB claim.
But let’s now suppose the practical joker, in his zeal to give his unsuspecting coworker the scare of a lifetime, tears a knee ligament in the process? What then?
Recall that any action that removes a worker from the course of employment may nullify workers’ comp coverage. And thus it would rightly seem, to most every person, that donning a bear costume during work hours would be grounds for a slam-dunk rejection of coverage.
But hold your horses.
The manual goes on to say that “an injury may still be considered (compensable) if:
• the horseplay is initially harmless then escalates into a dangerous activity, or
• the horseplay is a common occurrence at work
It pays to remember that no WCB claim is ever cut-and-dried. Ever. And so, in this example of horseplay, let’s hope for the sake of the worker and his employer, that the only injury sustained was a wounded ego.