Using Valve Tags in the Workplace

    Valve tags are one of those things that most people working in various facilities have seen, but may not have given much thought. If you have been tasked with creating or improving a procedure for using valve tags in your facility, it is important that you take the time to learn as much as you can about them. This page will provide a great overview of what valve tags are and how they should be used in a facility.

    Once you have this information, you can begin to create an effective valve tag strategy. This will help to improve safety, make maintenance easier, and provide a variety of other benefits as well.

    Why are Valve Tags Important?

    The first thing that many people will ask when it comes to valve tags is why are they important. Valve tags may seem like a minor item that is used in many facilities, but is it really an essential item? For many companies, valve tags are a critical item that needs to be used on every valve throughout the facility. Understanding some of the benefits that they can provide will help to illustrate why they are so important.

    Improving Safety

    Valve tags can help to improve the safety of your facility. Many facilities will have dozens, or even hundreds, of valves that control the flow of various liquids and gasses. If someone opens a valve thinking that it is just water, but it is actually a dangerous chemical, the results can be disastrous. Having a tag on the valve to alert people of what is in the pipes that it controls will help to dramatically reduce the risk of this type of accident from happening.

    Streamlining Maintenance

    When someone needs to perform some type of work on the piping system, they need to know exactly what is contained within the pipes before they begin. It is not enough to just try to remember or to guess what is in them. Having a valve tag in place will make it so the maintenance team does not need to go back and trace out the pipes throughout the facility. This can save a lot of time and effort, while also helping to further reduce the risk of making a mistake.

    Regulatory Compliance

    There are a variety of different regulatory requirements in place that apply to situations where dangerous chemicals are being used. Companies need to be certain that they are always in compliance with the regulatory requirements or they could be fined or even shut down. If you have any type of hazardous chemicals in your facility, it is very likely that you are legally required to have the valves tagged and the pipes labeled in order to ensure everyone knows what is within them.

    Buying or Making Valve Tags

    If you need to apply valve tags to the various areas of your facility, you will need to either purchase the tags themselves, or have them made in your facility. Fortunately, valve tags are very inexpensive and easy to buy or make.

    Learning a little bit about what goes into making a valve tag will help you to make sure that you are getting the right ones for the right situations.

    Materials Used for Valve Tags

    The first thing to consider is what materials you want to use for your valve tags. Different materials will have different advantages and disadvantages, which makes them right for various situations. The following are some of the most commonly used materials for valve tags:

    • Paper Tags – Paper tags are by far the least expensive option, and they can be quickly printed off with most any computer. You can use a heavier paper stock to make them more durable. This option is great for any valve that is not going to get wet or be used very frequently so that the tag does not get damaged.
    • Plastic Tags – If you need tags that will work in a moist environment and will stand up to more contact on a regular basis, plastic tags are an excellent option to consider. Plastic can typically last for many years without corrosion or other problems. Of course, they can be susceptible to melting if they come into contact with high levels of heat, so they may not be a great choice for high temperature areas.
    • Vinyl Tags – Vinyl tags are something of a combination of the benefits of paper and plastic tags. They are going to be much more durable than just using paper, and they can also be used in areas with lots of moisture. Vinyl tags are also typically very inexpensive and long lasting. Vinyl can be much more flexible than a plastic tag, which can make it a good choice when you need flexibility.
    • Metal Tags – The most expensive option is going to be a valve tag made of metal. The metal needs to be engraved with the information required for the valve. There are many different types of metal that can be used including stainless steel, aluminum, and more. These options can last an extremely long time and are much more durable when it comes to heat exposure.

    Looking at all the different options you have available will help you to pick the right one for your facility. Also, remember that it is not necessary to use just one material for your valve tags. You can use all the different materials in different locations throughout the facility to ensure you are always getting the results you need.

    Attaching Tags to Valves

    In addition to making sure the valve tags themselves are properly made, you need to ensure they will attach to the pipes securely. You can use a variety of different things to attach these tags. The following are some of the most commonly used options available:

    • String
    • Metal Wire
    • Zip Ties
    • Clips
    • Magnets

    Evaluate which of these options is best should not take long. All of them will provide you with a good way to secure your tags in place.

    Valve Tag Colors

    Another thing to keep in mind when choosing your valve tags is what color they will be. Using a variety of different colors for your valve tags will make it easier for people to get the information they need at just a glance. If you are going to use colored valve tags to convey meaning, however, it is critical that you make sure that the standards are followed throughout the facility. For most facilities that use colored valve tags, it makes sense to follow the standards put forth by ANSI/ASME, which are as follows:

    • Red Background with White Text – This color combination is used for fire quenching fluids.
    • Orange Background with Black Text – This color combination is used for corrosive or toxic fluids.
    • Yellow Background with Black Text – This color combination is used for flammable or oxidizing fluids.
    • Brown Background with White Text – This color combination is used for combustible fluids.

    There are a variety of other options available for color coding your valve tags. Many of them are either required or recommended by various agencies and organizations. Others you can decide what you want to use based on what you believe will work best for your facility.

    Training Employees on Valve Tag Meanings

    Valve tags are only going to be useful if people know what they are and what meaning they have. This means you need to train everyone who works in your facility on your valve tag policy. Start by making sure all of your employees are taught what valve tags are, your color-coding standards, and where to find any additional information they need.

    If you have contractors, maintenance teams, or other people who may not be employees, it is critical that they are trained as well. Anyone who may have any interaction with your piping system or the valves themselves should have proper training on how you are using the valve tags.

    Fortunately, valve tags are not a very complicated item in the facility so it will not take very much time to provide everyone the training they need. Once they receive this training, they will only need to be given refreshers occasionally, or updates when things change. You can even make it easy to remember the meanings of common aspects of the valve tags by putting up signs or labels around the facility.

    Creating a Valve Tag Policy for Your Facility

    Now that you have a good understanding of what valve tags are, where they can be used, and some other details about them, it is time to start working on a policy for your facility. Every facility is going to be unique in what needs they have in this area.

    If you have a lot of different valves, for example, your policy will be much more complex than a company that only has a couple of different pipes. The important thing is that you think this process through, follow proven standards, and make sure everyone in your facility is aware of the policy. From there, you just need to buy or create the valve tags you need and get them installed.

    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.