ANSI Color Coding

The process of pipe labeling is essential to minimize hazards within an industrial work environment. Pipes may contain a variety of different substances such flammable liquids, pressurized liquids, acids, wastes, water, etc. Pipes can extend for miles within industrial work settings and even though some pipes may not contain hazardous substances, it is still imperative to identify the contents within the pipes as well as the directional flow and pressure within the pipes.

What is ANSI Color Coding?

ANSI or American National Standards Institute is a privately owned, non-profit organization that is involved with creating consensus standards regarding workplace safety. In order to help ensure safety and the proper labeling of pipes, ANSI along with ASME (American Society of Testing and Materials) have developed a color coding system so the contents of pipes can be quickly and easily identified. The newest version of the ANSI Color Coding guide from 2007 features the use of six colors, versus the old version which focused primarily upon the use of four colors. The related hazards and colors are as follows:

Fire Quenching FluidsRed Background with White Lettering
Corrosive & Toxic FluidsOrange Background with Black Lettering
Flammable LiquidsYellow Background with Black Lettering
Combustible LiquidsBrown Background with White Lettering
Potable, Cooling, Boiler, WaterGreen Background with White Lettering
Compressed AirBlue Background with White Lettering
In addition to the above six color codes, ANSI has also identified four other colors that may be utilized at the discretion of the user for other fluids that do not meet the specifications of the above content colors. The other colors are as follows:
User DiscretionPurple Background with White Lettering
User DiscretionWhite Background with Black Lettering
User DiscretionGray Background with White Lettering
User DiscretionBlack Background with White Lettering

Pipe Label Placement

In addition to ANSI Color Coding recommendations, ANSI also provides helpful details on label placement. Just as color coding is important so is label placement. If labels are not placed in easily visible areas, the purpose to clearly identify hazards is not effective. Proper label placement is key for proper pipe label identification. For instance, if a pipe is located up high, above the employee workspace the pipe label should be placed facing downward so employees just look up to easily see and identify the pipe and label. In addition, if employees must look downward to see a pipe, the label should be placed on top of the pipe so contents are easily identified from above. Lastly, if a pipe is located at eye level or facing an employee, the label should be placed on the side of the pipe to be most easily seen. Even though the angle and placement of the label is important, it is also imperative to add additional identification labels near branches, valves, and directional change areas.

The Importance of Labeling Pipes

It is never a good idea to just assume that employees “know” the contents of the pipes within industrial work environments. The best practice is to clearly label all pipes using ANSI color codes and with arrows regarding the directional flow of the contents. Employees need to be aware of the contents within pipes in order to act safety and effectively when working with or near pipes containing hazardous substances. It is vital to always make sure pipes are labeled effectively to ensure the safety of all employees and visitors.

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