Pipe Marking Season: Auditing Your Facility’s Pipes

Spring is just around the corner. As we leave behind the freezing temperatures and enter a new season, we also usher in the beginning of Pipe Marking Season. With longer days and spring cleaning in mind, it is the opportune time to evaluate your pipes and ensure they are properly labeled.

If you are not already familiar with the ANSI/ASME A13.1 Standard for the Identification of Pipes, familiarize yourself with their guidelines. This will help you understand the size and color of pipe markings as well as where to place them. While it is recommended you label each and every pipe in the facility, you must label pipes if:

  • The pipe contains a hazardous substance
  • The contents of the pipe could impact emergency procedures
  • The direction of flow or the destination of contents is unknown
  • Regular maintenances require that valves be shut off or the flow be redirected

The size of the label and text is determined by the diameter of the pipe; the bigger the pipe the larger the label will need to be. Additionally, you will need to place pipe labels every 25’ to 50’ along straight runs, at all changes in direction, at both side of entry points through floors and walls, and next to all flanges and valves.

ANSI/ASME A13.1 includes two different means for identifying and marking the contents of the pipe. The primary identification will be the name of the substance flowing through the pipe and the secondary identification is the color code of the label. The standard has outlined six color combinations that correspond with the characteristics of the fluid or gas. For instance, orange labels with black text denote toxic or corrosive fluids and fire quenching substances are marked with a red label with white text. 

After you have familiarized yourself the ANSI/ASME pipe marking standards, it’s time to take inventory and audit the pipes in your facility. You will need to identify all pipes not properly marked and any labels needing to be replaced  An easy way to do this by taking a walk around the workplace with our Visual Safety & 5S Marking Workbook.

The workbook includes a table to make the auditing process simple. As you walk through your facility and take inventory of your pipes, fill out the table with the contents of the pipe, the classification (this will correspond with a color combination), the size of the pipe, where the pipe is located, the direction of flow, and how many labels you will need on the pipe.

In addition to auditing your facility’s pipes, you will want to check if pipe valves are properly tagged. Valve tags are made from a number of materials (wood, plastic, metal, etc.) and are attached to a valve to communicate important information. Typically, a valve tag will include an identifying number and specific instructions on whether or not the valve should be opened.

Using the workbook, the valve tag table will guide you through choosing the ID of the valve, the text you want to include on the tag, where the valve is located in the workplace, and how many tags you will need to order.

You should now have a comprehensive list of the pipe labels and valve tags you need. One option is to order the labels and tags that fit the needs of your facility online or through a catalog. If you’re needing to label a high number of pipes and valves however, this can be a costly option. Having an industrial label printer allows you to create custom, professional-grade pipe labels and valve tags in a matter of minutes. With the pipe markers in hand, you can schedule time for installation. Choose a time that will not be a great disruption to workers and if you have a large installation project, employ a team of workers to make it a quick process.   

Marking the pipes in your facility will help to make your workplace safer as well as more efficient; people are less likely to be injured and fewer accidents are bound to occur as a result of clearly labeled pipes. It’s important that not only employees, but also emergency personnel and visitor, can quickly identify what is flowing through pipes. As we enter Pipe Marking Season, ensure your visual communication strategy and pipe labels are up-to-date by evaluating your pipes and kicking off a new labeling project.

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