Seven Common Mistakes Hospitals Make Regarding Their OSHA/GHS Signage

By Jack Rubinger,, 503-469-3024

We conducted an informal survey among our customers and hospitals across the country. While not all our findings are strictly related to OSHA, we’re sharing the feedback because these signage issues are fairly universal.

1. One huge mistake that happens is that health care facilities tend to believe they are less likely to get inspected by OSHA if they have been inspected by The Joint Commission (TJC) or the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – so it’s a mistake to base signage and labeling on the potential for an OSHA inspection.

2. Another common mistake – especially in lab settings — is improper labeling of secondary containers. DuraSuite software helps lab managers keep a directory of common lab reagents and label secondary containers with proper GHS labels.

3. Involving those knowledgeable in wayfinding strategies is essential. Your strategic team should comprise external consultants and staff from the healthcare institution.

4. Unfortunately, signage and wayfinding are often an after-thought for projects or new builds and capital requests for wayfinding and signage budgets are rarely approved. This makes maintenance of signage and developing a new strategy or updating the current strategy next to impossible. In the end there is limited money “left” to create signage which can lead to temporary solutions that often never get fixed or replaced with a proper permanent solution. Instead, wayfinding and signage should be included in the design phase. 

5. Whether you’re addressing OSHA signage, HAZMAT or confined spaces, one of the biggest mistakes is lack of consistency. Too often, hospitals have a mish mash of all types of signs and pictograms. An effective safety program ensures consistent graphics throughout a facility. 

6. Signs should not be over designed, over used, too cute or too expensive. The director of hospital safety and his staff are responsible for keeping messages current, installing bi-lingual messages where appropriate and making sure signs are where they are supposed to be. 

7. Too much signage. Facility managers tend to place more signs than necessary. This can often overwhelm visitors and lead to greater confusion. In healthcare settings, patients, visitors and families are already stressed. The least of their concerns should be trying to navigate a confusing building in order to find the department or person they are seeking.

Note:   I worked at a newly-constructed rural hospital and found that our designer had color-coded the tiles on the floor on one side of each hall, i.e., green led to the patient area, blue led to the surgical department, and so-on.  It was very helpful for the employees to be able to find their way in the beginning; however, if a visitor or patient came in, there was no signage to explain the color-coded floor.  If an employee happened along, they were happy to direct them to the right department.  Just a little added thought, and thank you so much for this article, Jack.  Hospital employees should always keep their paper work up to date, just in case of a visit from Medicare, OSHA, or Joint Commission. pb