LabelTac Labeler – European Pipe Marking Standards

An Introduction to European Pipe Marking Standards

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The specifics of the pipe marking systems throughout the world vary from country to country, but they all reflect the general idea that the safety and health of contractors and employees should be paramount to anything else. For that reason, ANSI – and by extension OSHA – has some fairly strict rules on how to properly mark materials for easy identification. The marking requirements include colors and labels in specific locations throughout the piping system, and the implementation of these rules falls on the safety officer of the project or premises. Should he or she miss the mark, the business owner is ultimately responsible to ensure that these policies are being followed, or the company becomes liable for any injury as a result.

While the ANSI and OSHA standards apply to the United States, the European Commission is tasked with a similar system from the other side of the Atlantic. They enact standards for pipe marking throughout Europe, and by exploring their standards, we are able to get a better idea of the somewhat international basis by which our rules are constructed. The requirements don’t differ drastically, but some details do mark out a departure from what you may be used to here. 

Who Makes the Rules?

The European Union has two bodies that interact with pipe marking requirements. This is similar to how OSHA and ANSI co-exist within the US, and how Britain’s main occupational body and the British Standard interact in the UK. The European Commission is tasked with providing the guidelines for the tools used by employees. The EC states that it strives to create “a solid legal framework covering the maximum number of risks with the minimum number of regulations.” Additionally, they, “seek to adequately protect workers and ensure that they return home in good health at the end of the working day.” The missions of the EC are similar to ANSI in America, and possibly even more wide-reaching. At the end of the day, the EC also enforces the pipe marking standards.

Meanwhile, the EU organization that actually sets the policies will sound all-too familiar to American business owners. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, or EU-OSHA (yes, despite the different acronym) for short, has nearly identical goals to the American organization. Similarly, EU-OSHA is “committed to making Europe a safer, healthier and more productive place to work.”

What The European Pipe Marking Standards Cover

The specifics of pipe marking standards in the EU are just that– specific. They are so particular that, just by following them, the contractor can find out the color of the necessary marker, the expected placement of the marker, and the type of marker necessary. They set out the requirements for any pipe that will be above ground or exposed. If the piping will be buried underneath dirt, these standards do not apply. That said, the standards are relevant to some non-traditional work environments as well, like boats and ships used for commercial or governmental work.

European Pipe Marking Color Standards

Color coding a system in order to allow employees to easily see what kind of substances are going through a pipe with just a glance is nothing new. Much like the previously-discussed UK system, every gas or liquid type is assigned a unique color. For instance, natural gas pipes are marked in yellow. Pipes that carry acids and alkali substances are marked with purple. Fire service pipes are marked in red.

The full identification system is far more complex than that, but it requires examination and up close explanation to fully understand.

The following are the colors used in marking the pipes. They are merely symbolic, and it should be noted that, unlike some systems, the colors used in Euro pipe marking aren’t supposed to correspond to certain levels of danger.

  • Water: Green
  • Gas: Yellow
  • Air: Light Blue
  • Fire Service: Red
  • Steam: Silver
  • Oil: Brown
  • Acids and Alkalis: Violet
  • Electrical: Orange
  • Other fluids: Black


Other Labeling Requirements

The markings don’t stop at just a color however, the label itself holds a variety of important information that must be attended to in order to keep employees safe.

The system can get a little be complicated. Once you’ve got your color(s) down, a safety officer must ensure that the label includes all of the following:

  • The name of the contents of the pipe
    • The name of the contents should correspond with the color that has been affixed to the pipe. It can, however, be more specific. Instead of “oil” it could specify the individual type.
  • Any “danger symbols” that indicate potential threats from physical abuse or harm to the pipe while under pressure
    • Danger symbols” should label any and all immediate threats to employees or structures with regard to the substance in question.
  • Standard phrases
    • These are the typical statements that go on as warnings or recommendations. They’re similar to “This bag is not a toy.” (but, you know, aimed at adult professionals).
  • An EC number as assigned by the European Commission to chemicals purchased from within the EU
    • EC numbers are seven-digit codes that tell employees exactly what substance is flowing through the pipe.
  • A label that says “EEC label”
    • A label that states that the substance inside of the pipe is regulated by the EEC, and indicates whether the substance requires export notification procedures. The procedures are designed to ensure that a country that is not part of the EU is appropriately notified prior to the exportation of chemicals to a foreign country.


Let’s walk through a real-world example:

Q: If you are labeling a pipe in the EU that carries gasoline, what would you have to do to ensure that it falls within regulations?

A: You would begin by selecting the appropriate color label and affixing it to the pipe. In this case, it’s brown for oils (though in the EU, this would be locally referred to as gasoline “petrol” or “petroleum” instead).

Next, you would write out the name of the substance on a label on the pipe; simple enough.

Continue on by affixing any “danger symbols” or images that represent the risks of tampering with the pipe including injury, explosion, poisoning, etc.

Then, you would write any standard phrases like warnings or required indications for the substance in the pipe right onto a label (these can be found through the EC’s literature).

Next, you would add the European Commission number to another label. In this case, it would be 232-349-1 (for gasoline/petrol). These codes are, again, available through a database search maintained by the European Commission online.

Finally, you would place a label that says “EEC label” if necessary – in this particular example, this additional label would not be required.

As you can see, much of the information in labeling is double or triple-stated, but this just helps in clarification in cases where the color label may be damaged or inappropriate for the situation.

Pipe Marking Placement

Pipes can be long with bends, couples, and joints that make it difficult to see where they lead. For that reason, pipes in Europe have to be labeled in multiple places with the same system used at the origination point. The location of labeling is just as specific as the color and substance codes.

Luckily, the requirements can be boiled down to say that a pipe must be labeled within one meter of any wall, structure, plumbing that it either comes out of or enters.

This further includes areas like:

  • Manifolds or indoor plumbing fixtures
  • Any kind of wall, fence, or barrier
  • The ground
  • Roadway structures
  • Connection to hoses, as well as at 5 meter intervals along the pipe if it is long.
  • Intake and outflow piping adjacent to pumps
  • Pipes with connectors and valves
  • Any other point that a pipe changes directions or splits
  • Inflow or outgoing connections to tanks
  • Any additional place where marking could reduce hazard
  • Anywhere considered the most dangerous point of a pipe

LabelTac and Pipe Marking

A LabelTac Industrial printer can help make any labeling job easier and faster. LabelTac printers are able to print high quality industrial grade labels that can withstand chemical spills, uv exposure, as well as common industrial hazards. The best part is, with any LabelTac printer you’re able to print professional grade labels right in-house from the comfort of your business. LabelTac is able to create labels that meet all European pipe marking standards. There are many different labeling options when it comes to our LabelTac printers, please check out our LabelTac family of printers to find one that best suits your needs.

Wrapping Up

Well, look at you, an expert already!  But really, many of these requirements closely echo their American counterparts, so there are only small adjustment hurdles to overcome when delving into this system from our own. Not only is this good news for individual safety managers, but it also helps facilitate easy business and production expansion into European markets.

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