To improve communication, safety and efficiency in workplaces that contain many pipes, using a pipe marking system can be very helpful. Standard pipe labels can quickly convey information about what’s inside a pipe and where it’s traveling.
The industry consensus standard for pipe marking is ANSI/ASME A13.1, which offers guidelines for color schemes, sizes and locations of pipe labels.
The color guidelines specify what colors should be used for six main types of pipe contents. The labels must use white text or black text, depending on the background color (see the chart below). There are also four additional colors that can be used at a facility’s discretion.
The size of pipe labels depends on the size of your pipes. The larger the pipe, the larger the label—and the text on the label—needs to be. Required sizes range from eight to 32 inches in length (for the whole label) with a letter height between half an inch and three-and-a-half inches, depending on the diameter of the pipe. Consult this free guide for more detailed measurement information.
Finally, labels must be placed in four main locations:
- On straight runs, at 25 to 50-foot intervals
- At locations where a pipe’s direction changes
- At entry points through walls and floors (on both sides)
- Next to flanges and valves
The labels should also be placed on the pipes at locations that are easy to read. For example, if a pipe is located on the floor, placing the label above the pipe’s centerline (closer to the top of the pipe) would make it more visible to those standing in the area.
Now, let’s take a look at some examples of pipe marking labels that achieve what they need to.
In the photo above, a standard, ANSI-compliant label is used to mark a pipe that carries compressed air. The prescribed blue background with white text is used and the text itself is sufficiently large to be seen from a distance. Arrows even point in the direction the air flows.
This label has been applied to a pipe wrap, but the wrap is not required (this facility may have found it easier to apply the label to a wrap than directly to the pipe).
This red and white label communicates the fact that this large, orange pipe contains fire protection water, which can be critical information for emergency responders during an incident. A large pipe like this needs to have a label at least 32 inches in length with three-and-a-half inch lettering, which looks to be the case here.
Also worth nothing is the placement of this label; it’s located where a pipe turns and then merges with another pipe. Whenever a pipe changes direction like this, a label is needed.
The yellow and black labels on these four pipes indicate that flammable materials travel through the pipes. These substances can be hazardous, so using easily recognizable colors for hazards is important in this location. The labels also use bold text and directional arrows, so anyone working in the area can easily tell what is in the pipes.
Placing labels like these at eye level will also help ensure people can easily read them. While we can’t be positive these labels are at eye level because of the frame of the photo, it’s worth noting that you should always think about where labels will be most visible.
ANSI specifies that facilities should place pipe labels next to all valves and flanges, as can be seen in this photo. This facility also added additional directional arrows after the branch in the pipe to clarify the direction the water flows.
This example also reinforces the importance of using a large label with large text on pipes like this one with a large diameter.
These sections of straight pipes show how to label long sections of pipe that don’t turn. These sections need to be labeled every 25 to 50 feet.
In this case, the facility did a good job of selecting where on the pipes to place the labels. These pipe markings are placed slightly below each pipe’s centerline so workers on the facility floor can easily look up and read them. If the labels were placed any higher, it would be difficult to read them from the ground, and if they were placed on the bottom of the pipes, anyone who isn’t standing directly below would struggle to read them.
Follow the Guidelines, But Consider the Context
It’s important to follow ANSI/ASME guidelines for pipe marking, but you should always do so within the context of your facility. Perhaps your workspace would be easier for employees to navigate if labels were placed at more frequent intervals on straight runs or if the text were larger. Maybe one of the optional colors like purple or white would be helpful. Create a system that is effective for your business and that will provide employees the information they need to know in the locations where they work.
If you need to print lots of pipe labels, also consider making them yourself with an industrial label printer. Learn more about pipe marking in the SlideShare below.