Understanding Sign Codes

Code collage


A number of federal, state, and independent regulatory bodies have mandated legislation and guidelines that dictate several factors of sign design, construction, content, and installation. Some of these regulatory bodies include:

  1. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 2010
  2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  3. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Life Safety 101
  4. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A117.1
  5. International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  6. International Building Code (IBC) & International Code Council (ICC)
  7. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)
  8. USDOT / Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  9. Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)
  10. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
  11. Joint Commission (JCAHO)
  12. State Fire Code
  13. State Building Code
  14. State Department of Health
  15. State Department of Transportation (DOT)


Standardized regulations have been instituted for the safety of the general public and to reduce barriers for those that are impaired. These standards were instituted to help first responders navigate a facility to quickly respond to emergencies (logical room numbering), to help building occupants navigate and exit in case of an emergency (life safety signs, directional signs along egress pathways), to help those with visual impairments find their way throughout a facility (tactile characters, braille, and adequate contrast), to help drivers read information easier to avoid accidents (exterior sign placement, character height, font, and color contrast), to remove barriers for those in wheelchairs (mounting height of signs), and to bridge the gap of our multi-lingual society (standard symbols and icons). There are many more, but these examples should help illustrate the importance of instituting code compliant signage.


If an organization does not have complaint signage, they become liable for discrimination. As of March 28, 2014, an organization could be liable for a maximum civil penalty of $75,000 for the first ADA violation and $150,000 for each subsequent violation (link).


While a Fire Marshal or inspector may not require compliant signs for occupancy permits or other inspections, an organization may be liable for a lawsuit from an individual who feels that they are being discriminated against. Also, considering the safety implications, it is in all of our best interests to do what we can to provide a safe environment for employees, patients, customers, and visitors.


Please contact us with any sign code questions or concerns! We can provide an assessment to ensure your facility meets the current sign code requirements and identify any areas of deficiency.

Call: 585.266.5750

Email: contact@idsignsystems.com

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