Review of ANSI Color Codes For Pipe Marking

A Great Pipe Marking Guide for Understanding Color Codes

One thing that virtually all facilities have in common is that they have all sorts of different pipes running throughout the building. These pipes can carry just about anything from drinking water to any number of chemicals or even gasses. Labeling pipes properly is extremely important not only for those who are working on the pipes themselves, but also for everyone in the facility.

The vast majority of facilities today follow the ANSI color codes, which are listed in their section A13.1. While it is not legally required, yet, to follow this standard, it is commonly accepted that it is the safest option out there. It helps to ensure everyone in the facility can read the labeling, and even if they can’t quite make out the wording, they will know what is in the pipe based on the colors.

Mixed Content of Pipes

Before we get to the actual color codes for this standard, it is important to note that any time a pipe contains a mixture of different things, the labeling should be based on the most hazardous of the products. For example, if a pipe you are running will contain waste water sometimes, and the byproduct of a corrosive acid others, the pipe should be labeled as corrosive.

In the event that you’re mixing two hazardous things and you want to be sure everyone is aware of both, you can alternate between the two color schemes. Attempt to have the two types of labels as close to each other as possible, so everyone that walks by will see that the pipe has two labels on it.

Standard Pipe Marking Color Codes

The following six color schemes are for the ANSI A13.1 standards. Following these labeling standards will help keep your facility safer, while also making it a lot easier to work on the piping or any machines that use the piping in your facility.

White text on Red Background

Pipes that contain fire-quenching fluids should be labeled with white text placed over a red background. Whether it is water that is feeding into a sprinkler system, or another fire-fighting product that your facility uses, white on red is always for fire safety. This one is easy to remember, and easy for everyone in the area to see.

Black text on Orange Background

The pipes containing toxic and/or corrosive fluids will need to be labeled with black text over an orange background. The list of different fluids this label could be used for is nearly endless, so it is important that everyone knows that this labeling standard is not meant to provide every bit of information a facility may need.

This standard is just going to help provide the necessary information for safety when working with or around these pipes. When it comes to toxic or corrosive fluids, this label will provide the necessary alerts.

Black text on Yellow Background

Any pipes that contain flammable fluids will need to be labeled with black text on a yellow background. Any fluid that could ignite when exposed to sparks, heat or flame will want to be labeled with this color scheme. It is important to note that fluids are considered flammable when they have a flashpoint that is below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

White text on Brown Background

Pipes containing combustible fluids will be labeled with white text on a brown background. There are many different combustible fluids used in facilities. The difference between flammable and combustible is that combustible fluids have a flash point of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above, compared with 100 degrees and below for flammable. Needless to say, this is a very important difference that those working in your facility should understand.

White text on Green Background

White text on a green background is the labeling color scheme for most types of water. Whether it is potable water, or water used in cooling, boilers, or anything else (other than fire suppression), it should be labeled with this white and green layout.

White text on Blue Background

The last of the six designated color schemes is white text on blue background, and it is used for any pipes that contain compressed air. This could be used to operate tools, for cleaning, or even safety equipment. Compressed air is not only useful in facilities, it can also be dangerous for those working with the pipes, so proper labeling is essential.

User Defined Labeling

In addition to the six standard colors used in pipe labeling, ANSI A13.1 has also reserved four additional colors for user-defined pipe labeling. These colors can be used for anything that you have in your facility, which doesn’t fit into the above categories. It is important to make sure that any time you use one of these types of labels, everyone knows exactly what these colors mean.

In addition, these user defined colors must be standardized throughout the facility. For example, you can’t have the one department using it for one thing, and another using it for something else. With this goal, it is good to have everyone that wants to label pipes go through one central location in the facility to get their labels printed.

The four user-defined color options are:

  •  White text on Purple Background
  •  White text on Grey Background
  •  White text on Black Background
  •  Black text on White Background

While you can also use any other color combination you want for your facility, it is best to at least start with these four options. This is because other color schemes may be used for other types of labels in the ANSI standards, or other labeling standards that may exist. Whenever possible, make sure you follow this one standard to avoid any problems or confusion.

Placing Pipe Marking Labels

It is not enough to just have the right labels for the pipes in your facility, you also need to make sure they are put on the pipes properly. The following standards will help ensure your facility has pipe labeling that is easy to read, and provides as much information as possible to those working in the area.

  • Wrapping the Pipes – To the extent possible, the labels should be placed all around the pipe so people can see it from any angle. This often means that the lettering is printed two or three times around the pipe, depending on the size of the pipe.
  • Near all Valves & Flanges – Whenever there is a valve, flange, or other change in the piping, there should also be a label on both sides of it. This will be very helpful to those actually working on the pipes.
  • Going through Walls – When a pipe travels through a wall, it should be labeled as soon as it comes out of the wall on both sides.
  • Identify Flow Direction – Having arrows placed on the pipe to indicate which direction the contents are flowing is very important. If a pipe works in both directions, you can either have a double sided arrow, or leave the arrows off all together.
  • Minimum Spacing – Labels should be placed frequently on the pipe. The generally accepted standard minimum is every 50 feet of pipe. If there is anything that can cause an obstruction in visibility, however, the labeling should be placed as close as is necessary. Of course, closer is always better.

Label Sizes

When having new labels for your pipes printed, you will also need to follow the ANSI recommendations for the size of the labels. The specific sizes recommended is based off the size of the pipe itself. The larger the pipe, the bigger the label should be.

While the following size minimums are a great place to start, you should always keep in mind that the most important thing is that the labels are as visible as possible. If that means having the labels significantly larger than these standards, that is what you should do.

Outside Pipe Diameter Minimum Length of Label Minimum Height of Letters
.75 – 1.25″

Depending on the actual text you are using on the pipes, you may have to go well above the minimum lengths to fit everything in. Keeping the height of the letters at least as tall as recommended, however, is very important.

Another thing to consider when determining whether or not to make your labels larger than the minimum recommended sizes is the height of the pipes. In some facilities, pipes are way up in the ceiling, in which case larger letters may be warranted. Pipes that are running at, eye level, on the other hand, should be the minimum recommended sizes.

If you’re ever not sure, you can always print off a label and tape it in place to see how it looks. Ask a few people if they are able to easily see what the label says. If they can, then the size you have is fine. If not, than you should make it a little bigger. Getting your labeling right may take a little bit of effort, but in the long run it will be well worth it.

Providing Sufficient Training

It is not enough to simply follow the ANSI color codes for pipe marking throughout your facility. You need to make an effort to ensure everyone knows exactly what each of these types of labels means. This will require some level of training to be provided.

In addition to just letting people know about the ANSI standards, you’ll want to give them any specifics you have for your facility. For example, when you’re training people about the fire-quenching fluids labeling (white text on red background) you should also let them know what specific fluid your facility uses for fire suppression.

The more information you can provide to people working in your facility, the better they will be able to perform their jobs, and respond to any emergency situations. For most facilities, it won’t really take very long to make sure everyone knows about what each color combination means, and how they can stay safe.

Creating Color Key Signs

Of course, even after people are provided with training in the facility, you will want to do everything you can to make sure nobody forgets. One great way to keep these colors on people’s minds is to print off a poster that has a simple key to the pipe labeling standards. This poster can be hung up throughout the facility, so people are able to see it when needed.

This will not only serve as a constant reminder to reinforce what they learned during the provided training, but it will also be a resource they can access during an emergency. Having this type of information readily available will help people to respond properly no matter what is happening.

Creating Pipe Marking Labels

LabelTac Industrial Label Maker
When making a standard for your facility, you will want to do all you can to make it as easy to follow as possible. Having all the labels printed from within the facility is a great way to ensure there aren’t any problems.

Using a LabelTac industrial label maker is a great way to keep everyone following the same standard, while still saving money on the total cost of having labels printed. LabelTac printers will also allow you to create new labels as they are needed, so if a label is damaged somehow, it can be replaced without delay.

There are many great benefits to having one of these label printers on site in any facility, and pipe labeling is just one of them. If you plan on getting a label printer, make sure you choose one that can print labels for the pipes you use in your facility.

Safety & Convenience

No matter how you end up getting your labels, or what types of pipes they are used on, you will be helping to improve both the safety and the convenience of the pipes within your facility. So, take some time to get your facility in line with the ANSI pipe labeling standards, so you can enjoy the benefits right away.

Contact Creative Safety Supply for all of your pipe marking and labeling needs.