From plumbers to engineers, dealing with pipes that are lacking identification can be a time-consuming task that can hold consequences for a business. Identifying pipes is essential when it comes to keeping workers safe and efficiently organizing maintenance processes, ensuring everyone can work in a safe environment.

Workers should confidently be able to identify the contents of pipework, being especially important when they are dealing with hazardous substances that have the potential to cause harm. All pipes within an organization should be correctly labeled, not only detailing the necessary information but using the correct color scheme which communicates a pipe’s contents at first glance. This can provide significant improvements when it comes to accident prevention, being a cost-effective way to increase non-verbal communication surrounding workplace hazards.

Common Pipe Markings

In order to remain OSHA compliant, there are various methods for labeling pipes that follow standardized color codes as well as the ASME format. The most common types of labeling are as follows:

Off-the-shelf labels

As a great option for smaller businesses requiring just a small amount of labels, pre-printed labels can be ordered using high-quality material designed to last. Often made for common pipework such as water and ammonia pipes, these labels mean sufficient solutions can be found without having to own an industrial label printer.

Custom pipe labels

For instances in which the standardized shelf labels are not suitable, such as less common substances, a custom labeling solution will need to be found that ensures all pipework is sufficiently labeled. Instead of having to invest in expensive printing machinery, custom pipe labels can be designed and printed by a third party to meet safety requirements at an affordable price.

Valve tags

For pipe valves, specific valve tags will be required which will then be placed directly onto the valve for an effective solution that is easy to use. The valve tag will inform employees about the contents and any potential dangers associated with the substance within, whether that be for water valves, chemical valves, or gas valves. For situations that require a more heavy-duty solution, such as chemical valves, stainless steel valve tags are durable and designed to stand the test of time, even in harsh environments. For more everyday scenarios or situations where the pipe contents change, plastic bags are a more simple solution that can be removed and reused as required.

The Color Codes Used For Pipe Markings

Pipe color-coding is a huge factor in the effectiveness of pipe markings, being useful for instantly being able to obtain important information about the contents of a pipe. The standardized codes are used by emergency services and mean those who are familiar with working on pipes can identify the nature of the task within an instant. If color codes are ignored, there is a higher risk of an accident being caused by a wrongly identified pipe or a lack of safety precautions around a hazardous substance. Risking not only costly damage to a facility, but incorrect color coding also has the potential to result in physical harm to a worker.

The basic identification colors used for pipe markings are as follows:

  • White text on red: Fire-quenching substances
  • Black text on orange: Toxic and corrosive fluids
  • Black text on yellow: Flammable or oxidizing fluids
  • White text on brown: Combustible fluids
  • White text on green: Other water
  • White text on blue: Compressed air
  • White text on purple: User-defined
  • Black text on white: User-defined
  • White text on gray: User-defined
  • White text on black: User-defined

Applying Pipe Labels Correctly

Whether applying pre-bought pipe markings or custom label solutions, the application plays a key part in their effectiveness. Of course, the information on the label must be fully legible and placed directly onto the pipe in a position where it is easily accessible. Depending on the nature of the pipe contents and the space available, the necessary information about the pipe’s contents may be conveyed in different ways which include a full written name, a well-known abbreviation, the chemical symbol, or the correct color code. The background color of the label must not only be chosen in line with the correct color codes, but any text should be easily visible, being printed in contrasting colors to stand out against the background in all conditions.

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