Confusing and Conflicting Signage

Just like a policy or a management plan, CMS, Joint Commission, HFAP and DNV surveyors will hold you accountable to what your signage is telling you. If a sign is posted informing you of something to do (or not to do), and if  a surveyor finds a contrary action, then you are open for a citation. If multiple signs contradict each other, then you have a confusing situation and still susceptible to findings. Let’s take a look at some signs that create problems and challenges…

This hand-written sign informs occupants that this is not an exit, while the ‘Exit’ sign says it is… Which is it? This photo was taken in a construction project. It appears that the contractor wanted to shut-down this exit for construction purposes, but he was reluctant to cover up the ‘Exit’ sign. Apparently, he did not understand that it is permissible to cover up an ‘Exit’ sign as long as you implement appropriate ILSM procedures.







 The sign on the door says ‘Authorized Personnel Only – Do Not Enter’ which implies “Don’t Go In Here”, but the ‘Exit’ sign says this is the way to the exit. Confusing… which will get them in trouble with a surveyor.







 The sign on the wall says ‘Surgical Suite- Do Not Enter’ but the ‘Exit’ sign points out that this is the way to exit the building. Although you don’t want unauthorized individuals waltzing into a surgical suite, you can’t tell them on one hand “This is the way to get out of the building” and then say on the other hand “Hey! Don’t You Come in Here!” You can’t have it both ways. Perhaps a better sign on the wall could have been “Surgical Suite – Emergency Exit Only”.





This is a classic. I use it a lot during my seminars on not what to do. Again, you have the ‘Exit’ sign saying “This is the way out of the building” and then you slap another sign on the door that essentially says “No, this is not the way out of the building”.  This stairwell that the ‘Exit’ sign points to did not qualify as a ‘required exit’. It had a problem with the discharge out of the stairwell on the level of exit discharge, and the hospital did not believe that it complied with the LSC. I think it did qualify for an exception in the LSC, but the hospital wanted to discontinue using it as a ‘required exit’. Anyway, until I saw this signage arrangement, the hospital thought they had to have the ‘Exit’ sign over all stairwells, regardless whether or not they were required or legal, and then they wanted to post a sign indicating that the stairwell really wasn’t legal, so they would only make it a ‘communicating stairwell’ between floors. You can’t have it both ways. (They found out they did not need this stairwell for required exiting so they removed the ‘Exit’ sign. Right Mike?)

 First they wanted you to use the ‘Other’ door, then they decided they wanted you to use ‘This’ door. Then someone parked a gurney in front of the door effectively telling everyone “Don’t use any door”. Placing a gurney or other object in front of a door, effectively blocking access to and from the room is a huge NO-NO.






This is not a shelf? Sure it is…. Staff was ignoring a sign which was posted by someone else. Surveyors won’t like this type of disregard. This may be a good example of never using ‘home-made’ signs, and only use indelible signs. It might cut down on the blatant disregard by staff.








I was looking for the generic “In Case of Fire, Use Stairs” sign for an article I was writing, and I found this on the Internet. Silly…






 She’s the Director of HIM, but who’s the director of HER?

Sounds like a ‘Get Smart’ episode.







 And last but not least, this sign is from my good friend Lori Greene. She had it on her blog ( just this past week. I can fully understand how mistakes happen, but I wonder how long that sign was in place before anyone found out it was wrong? Take a look at the lower edge of the sign… it looks a bit worn, indicating it’s been there a while. (For those that may not know what the problem is, the sign was supposed to read: PUSH UNTIL ALARM SOUNDS- DOOR CAN BE OPENED IN 15 SECONDS)


The lesson learned from all of these signs, is they cannot conflict with other signs, and they must be obeyed.