British Pipe Marking Standards

An Introduction to British Pipe Marking Standards

As a business owner or manager, I probably don’t need to remind you how specific some of ANSI’s (and by extension OSHA’s) pipe marking standards can get. Specific colors and labels are required in a number of precise areas and junctions, and it, of course, remains the responsibility of the safety manager – and ultimately the business owner – to ensure that the standards are adhered to.

Ever wondered how someone in your position in another country would fare? We did, and as luck would have it we tracked down the ANSI-equivalent standards for pipe marking in industrial and work settings. In this blog post we’re going to take a look at standards in Britain for pipe marking. All in all, you’ll see that their systems and organizational bodies stack up fairly shoulder to shoulder with their American counterparts, making for fairly simply interplay between the two. That said, specific colors and labeling techniques can be completely different, so pay close attention!

The Governing Bodies

In England, there exists a relationship between two bodies that almost exactly parallels that of OSHA and ANSI in the United States. In England, the Health and Safety Executive, which takes OSHA’s role as the main rule setter and enforcer in the country, has a familiar goal:  “HSE Aims to reduces work-related death, injury and ill health,” proclaims their website. OSHA followers will be familiar with an dedicated to such sentiment.

Then, just as our sign and labeling standards are relegated to ANSI, the HSE defers to the British Standard for their specific coloring (or ‘colouring’, as the case may be) requirements and systems. Rather than create their own HSE standards, the British Standard is simply enforced by the HSE. 

What The British Pipe Marking Standards Cover

Just as in many countries, color coding systems for piping have to have extremely specific descriptions of when labeling is required, what that labeling will be, and precisely where it is to be located. British Standard 1710, the articles governing pipe labeling, applies specifically and only to above ground or exposed pipes in and around the work environment, and most “generic piping” on boats and industrial ships. Furthermore, BS 1710 says that their labeling is only required if the pipes are actively carrying fluids or gases.

British Pipe Marking Color Types

One thing that can be slightly confusing with the British system is the use of two different colors for each type of pipe contents. First, every liquid type has a basic color that immediately tells workers what the pipe is carrying. Second, everything also has a ‘Safety Colour’, which helps to identify the purpose or give further details about what’s contained inside.

Let’s take a quick look at an example:

For any kind of oil that might be traveling through a pipe in the workplace, the pipe is required to have two bands of brown tape or paint at the required labeling points (more on those in a bit). However, to further identify the oil, another band of color, along with its BS 1710 identification code, need to be placed in between the basic categorizing color. In the case of a pipe carrying diesel fuel, for example, whose identifying color is white, a white band would be placed in between two brown bands.

While color bands are the most common and visual method of identification, BS 1710 allows for the following to also be used for identification purposes in most work environments:

  • The full name of the contents
  • A commonly accepted and easily identifiable abbreviation
  • The chemical symbol for the contents, when applicable
  • The refrigerant ID number (specified in BS 4580)

Identification Labeling

LabelTac 4 PRO for Pipe Marking
Since color labeling is the most common, let’s delve a bit further into that. Once you’ve got your color rings all sorted out, you’ve got one more major step… and it gets a little bit tricky. Basically, in addition to the colors, you need to clearly mark the identification number of the compound/type of liquid or gas associated with the safety color.

Water to be used for the purpose of firefighting, for example, has an identification code of “05 E 53”. This number has to be displayed prominently next to the safety identification color ring and with the following specifications:

  • The code must be printed in either black or in white, whichever will provide the best contrast and be easiest to see.
  • The code may be placed directly onto the pipe or, if you choose, on a separate label placed on the pipe. 
  • Any label used for the code must have the same background color as the safety identification color (the middle band color).

Using these codes in addition to the color rings helps to ensure easy identification if a color becomes faded or may be hard to distinguish from another one (in low-light situations, for example), or in cases in which a colorblind worker may have to identify the substance flowing through a pipe. Using an LabelTac industrial label printer can help you to print crisp clean labels with bold lettering which helps to make the labels easily visible and identifiable. 

Placement and Directional Requirements

Just as in American pipe marking standards, there are specific directions for where and how often a pipe has to be labeled with all of the above mentioned information. At a minimum, the standard requires that the following places have easily visible and up-to-standards identification schemes in place: Both sides of any “valves, service appliances, bulkheads, wall and floor penetrations, as well as any other place pipe contents identification is needed.” 

American safety managers will be familiar with the ambiguity of that last sentence, which in a way equates to ANSI’s labeling standards having something akin to OSHA’s “general duty clause.”  Basically, any point at which a worker might come into contact with, easily brush up against, or any point which may experience stress should probably be labeled for maximum safety.

An example of this could be elbows and connecting pieces (T-junctions), or junctions in which more than one pipe merge together (water used for multiple distinct purposes at one point may merge together in a large outflow pipe, for example).

Additional considerations for locations to include labeling include but are not limited to:

  • Wherever pipework is entering or exiting a pipe.
  • Any point where identification will provide clarity or increase safety in the event of an emergency.
  • Pipework near, in, or around manifold systems.

In addition to placement, it’s important that you also go through and label the direction of flow through any pipe at any point that already requires labeling according to BS 1710 standards. Next to the basic identifying color bands, with a background of the same color, an arrow must be placed pointing in the direction of forward flow.

British Pipe Marking Common Color Types

To end with, here’s a quick and dirty run down of the basic category colors used in the British pipe marking system. Keep in mind, these colors do not account for or have anything to do with the actual safety identification colors or their associated codes.

WATER: All water being carried in pipes should be identified by green outer rings.

OILS: Oils, including fuels and hydraulic or transformer fluids, need to be labeled with a brown outer rings. 

REFRIGERANTS: Refrigerants have several sub categories, including things like ammonia, and should be indicated by ochre rings (a yellow/maize color).

OTHER: Other compounds have their own labels, including compressed air (light blue), steam (silver-grey), drainage pipes (black), electrical conduits (orange), acids (violet), and more.

Contact Creative Safety Supply at 1-866-777-1360 for all your pipe marking needs. Make sure to check out our LabelTac printers and supplies which can help to save money on all your pipe marking projects.