Canadian Contractor

What’s really behind No Trespassing signs?

No Trespassing signs can be legitimate attempts to keep members of the public from hurting themselves in places they don't belong. Most contractors use them this way. But shady contractors can use them to keep a jobsite private from prying eyes who might see, and report, gross safety violations.

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February 26, 2013 by Alec Caldwell

In the Toronto downtown core, as elsewhere, many contractors post No Trespassing signs on their security fences. Many of  these signs are, no doubt, honorably intended to keep out unwanted visitors and help cover liability. But, in some cases, unfortunately these signs also allow a minority of unscrupulous operators to run unsafe job sites behind these very fences, where workers can easily be maimed or killed.

Inside these perimeters, well away from peering eyes, workers are exposed daily to staircases with no safety rails, where obstructions lie in wait for them to trip and fall over, and cause injury. Open holes in floors invite tragic falls. Workers operate from scaffolding above 10 feet in height without full guardrails. Workers operated at heights without fall protection. Every one of these situations, and others, contravenes the Occupational Health & Safety Act. But who cares, these operators seem to be saying. It’s all about pure profit for some.

To combat this growing situation, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) wants to use your eyes to report anyone you feel is working unsafely. Simply call toll-free 1-877-202-0008 and give as much detail as possible, including the address and, if possible, company or builder’s name. The MOL will dispatch an inspector to investigate and, believe me when I say this, these inspectors will not be fobbed off lame duck excuses, they’ve heard them all before. These inspectors operate under different laws and one of them is: they don’t need anyone’s prior permission to walk on to a job site unannounced, No Trespassing sign or not. Their job then is to immediately investigate, find fault and prosecute if necessary. It’s also possible in the process they might uncover more violations under the Ontario Health & Safety Act (OHSA) They have the power to immediately close a job site down.

Having said all this, let’s be clear: there are some great builders out there who care very much about the safety of their trades and employees. This week, I happened to meet one of them on his job site in Leaside. One sign on his security fence said it all, from a clear statement that safety rules could not be compromised, to the hours of operation of the site, to instructions on how to handle a fire breaking out.  It was one of the cleanest sites I’ve seen in a while and his safety was top notch. He even had his own safety person inspect the site regularly. I say what a great way to keep you compliant under the OHSA. This approach reduced his exposure and liability.

This contractor told me that his job was about making profit” but he had no interest in increasing his profit at the expense of safety. His safety approach was like buying insurance: it’s called due diligence. After an accident on your job site you have to be able to prove due diligence in order to fend off prosecution. His policies and procedures were about foresight, leading to a safer site for everyone and a much lower risk for him. I take my hat off to this builder and others in this industry who work like him.

So let’s cut out the greed and invest a little on safety! Get educated! We can help.

To reach us at the Canadian Association of Renovators and Home Services (CARAHS) call us 1-866-366-2930 or email me at





Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell is the Founder of CARAHS, a Health & Safety Organization.

We are approved providers by the Ministry of Labour (Ontario) to teach Working at Heights Training (Pro#34609)

Visit the Ministry of Labour’s web site to view our listing

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