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Sign Structure Research Calls for Regular Inspections

The results of a three-year study on single-pole sign structures commissioned by the International Sign Association provide guidance in the repair or rebuilding of existing structures. The study also includes information about improving the safety and durability of new structures.

The research was conducted at the University of California, San Diego to enhance the understanding of the causes of sporadic failures of single-pole, high-rise sign structures that incorporate “telescoping poles.”

The research, “Fatigue Tests of Welded Connections in Cantilevered Steel Sign Structures,” is based on tests performed at UCSD’s Charles Lee Powell Structural Systems Laboratory from 2010 to 2011.

“This research has been an important initiative for ISA on behalf of our industry and is the result of many hours of work by the ISA Mechanical and Structural Subcommittee,” said Rich Gottwald, ISA’s executive vice president. “While there have been only a handful of failures out of out of tens of thousands of sign structures, ensuring that our products are safe throughout their life-cycle is important for our industry and our customers. We believe that this report will help engineers, manufacturers, installers and end users understand the importance of regular inspections and continuing education.”

ISA suggests at least annual checks for: structural damage, loosened or damaged bolts, broken or missing unacceptable welds, signs of moisture retention as the result of landscaping or vegetation overgrowth, absent or improperly formed concrete footer caps, sign faces that are broken or cracked and tilted or skewed poles. Any defects should be photographed and reported by the inspecting contractors. Corrective measures must be approved by registered and licensed professional engineers in advance. In addition to visual inspections, third-party specialists might be necessary to identify damage that is not visually detectable. Only corrective measures approved by a professional engineer can be executed.

The full report is available at the ISA website,

For more information, contact ISA’s Executive Vice President Rich Gottwald at 703-836-4012 or

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