Why is Pipe Marking Important?

    Pipes are found in just about every factory and warehouse in the world. They have been around for a very long time, and make it faster, easier, and safer to transport virtually any type of liquid or gas to where it needs to be. From the outside, however, pipes often look the same so it can be difficult to know what they contain just by looking. To solve this problem, companies and regulatory organizations have created various pipe marking standards that need to be followed.

    Pipe markings, when done properly, make it easy to see exactly what is contained within a given pipe. These markings generally follow an established standard so that all the key information such as what is being transported, which direction the flow is in, any hazardous information about the solution, and more is clearly displayed. While pipe markings are relatively easy to use, they still provide significant benefit. Understanding why pipe markings are important will help incentivize any facility to follow the best practices in this area.

    Pipe Markings Improve Safety

    The most significant reason that pipe marking is important is because it improves the safety of a facility. If someone is going to open a valve at the end of a pipe thinking that it will release water, they will be in significant danger if the pipe actually contains some type of acid. This is a very possible situation when a facility has dozens of different pipes that span miles of distance throughout the area. Labeling the pipes correctly will help ensure people can easily tell what is in a pipe and avoid this type of hazard.

    In addition to helping keep people safer on a daily basis, pipe markings will also help reduce risk during an emergency. For example, if there is a fire in the facility and the emergency responders arrive to try to put it out, they may want to hook up to your fire suppression system. If you have not labeled your pipes correctly, it could be difficult for them to find the right locations when they arrive. At the least, this can cause a delay in their ability to put the fire out. In a worst-case situation, it could result in them opening or cutting the wrong pipes, which could make the situation far more dangerous.

    Pipe Markings Make Maintenance Easier

    While safety improvements are obviously going to be a primary reason for using pipe markings in your facility, they can also help make regular maintenance work faster and easier. When your maintenance team is going to do some work on a machine, for example, they may need to make sure that the flow of certain chemicals is shut off. If the pipes are not clearly marked, they may have to trace the pipe back to where it started to confirm what it contains. This not only takes a lot of extra time, but is also not nearly as safe.

    There are many situations where someone will need to work on machines, or even on the pipes themselves, where markings would be helpful. Whenever installing new pipes, or making changes to the piping system, it will take just a few extra minutes to apply labeling as you go. In the end, it will save a significant amount of time and effort compared to having to verify the contents of a pipe each time it is being worked on.

    Pipe Markings are Often Required

    In many places and situations, using pipe markings is actually a legal requirement. Organizations like OSHA have created safety standards to help ensure companies are marking their pipes properly so that people working in the area do not get hurt. In some cases, using this type of marking is not actually required, but still highly recommended by various organizations. There are many safety focused agencies around the world, and just about all of them either require or encourage some type of pipe marking strategy.

    Whether pipe markings are required in your specific situation or not, it is important to follow the pipe marking standards that apply. In most cases in the United States, this means following the ANSI pipe marking standards. These standards cover things like where pipe markings should be placed, what information should be on them, and much more. In fact, the ANSI standards are almost always going to be the basis for any requirements from OSHA or other regulatory bodies as well, which is why companies typically start out by following these best practices.

    Starting with Pipe Markings

    Pipe markings are something that should always be used in any facility. Whether you are building out a new facility, updating a piping system, or just thinking about applying markings to your existing pipes, it is important to get it right the first time. Using quality pipe marking labels that contain the proper information on them will help you to get the biggest benefits from this effort.

    A Guide to ANSI Pipe Marking Standards

    pipe marking standards

    pipe marking standardsPipe marking is essential to workplace safety and ANSI and ASME has provided guidelines for the proper labeling of pipes. ANSI/ASME A13.1 (recently revised in 2015) is the most common standard for pipe marking in the United States. The scope of this standard includes identification of the pipe, what pipe labels should look like and where the markers go. Following the ANSI/ASME standard will keep you in compliance with regulations and ensure those working on or around pipes are kept safe.

    ANSI/ASME A13.1 specifies two types of identification on a pipe label: a primary and a secondary. The primary means for identification is the printed text of the pipe’s contents and arrow on the label that indicates the direction of flow. The secondary means of identification is the colors used for the label. The approved color combinations and what they signify are as follows:

    • Yellow label / Black lettering: Flammable liquids and gases.
    • Green label / White lettering: Potable water.
    • Blue label / White lettering: Compressed air.
    • Red label / White lettering: Fire quenching fluids.
    • Orange label / Black lettering: Toxic or corrosive fluids.
    • Brown label / White lettering: Combustible fluids.

    Additionally, the standard identified four color combinations (purple and white, white and black, grey and white, and black with white) as “user defined.” This means the facility can determine and assign meanings to contents that may not exactly fit in with the normal standards.

    When looking where to place pipe labels, ANSI/ASME provides guidelines. Labels should be placed on the pipe where it is visible from a normal approach. For instance, if a pipe is near the ceiling, adhering a label on the other side of the pipe will be more visible. At valves, flanges, and changes in pipe direction all call for the use of a label, as well as at any line entry or re-entry point. Another set of guidelines in the pipe marking standard is the size of the label and the height of the letters used; the bigger the diameter of the pipe, the bigger the label needs to be.

    If you are looking to begin a pipe labeling project or update your current labeling efforts, ANSI/ASME A13.1 has all the information you need to create a system that works for your facility and will keep workers safe. Pipe markers are also essential for maintenance purposes and can be extremely beneficial for emergency responders. Take an audit of the pipes currently in your facility, and from there you can begin planning what types of labels you will need.