Health and safety practices in the workplace have improved over the years but the focus still seems to be mainly on basic safety measures like wearing helmets and awareness of the rules.

One practice that can sometimes be overlooked, with potentially dangerous consequences, is the practice of marking pipes.

Increase safety with pipe marking

The basic principle of pipe marking is to create an easy way of identifying and displaying the contents and temperature of each individual pipe used in the workplace.

You can get all of the labels and warning signs you need from someone like Creative Safety Supply and other similar suppliers, and the benefits are literally clear to see as anyone working in that environment can see at a glance what they are dealing with.

When pipe marking procedures are fully utilised, it has the ability to increase safety levels at your facility in a number of different ways.

Having clear labels on pipework will allow workers to quickly identify any chemical names that need referencing via MDS (Material Safety data Sheets) for safety information and handling instructions.

Using a color-coding system for your pipework will also help you to make the right safety decisions in the event of a leak, especially when used in conjunction with flow-direction arrows so that the shutoff valves can be quickly located.

Achieving compliance

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require compliance with pipe marking standards although the rules are not currently enforceable in terms of fining companies who fail to adequately mark their pipework.

Although certain standards are not currently enforceable by law (although you should make your own checks in this regard) achieving compliance with the current guidelines will not only ensure that workers enjoy a potentially safer environment but it will also allow your company to fall in line with certification requirements for European and British Standards, amongst others.

In order to meet ANSI standards, you will need to follow their guidelines on aspects such as label size, color and location.

There is a defined color policy to follow based on the contents of the pipe and this uniformity means that every plant that meets these ANSI standards will be operating the same coding system, which will reduce the risk factor as a result.

Labeling the pipework

Red with white text indicates fire-quenching liquids

Orange with black text should be used for corrosive or toxic fluids

Yellow with black text indicates the presence of flammable liquids

Brown with white text is used to identify combustible liquids

Green with white text signifies all water lines

Blue with white text is the color combination used for compressed air

Carrying out an inspection

The most practical and accepted method for identifying hazards in preparation for using a labeling system, is to carry out a physical health and safety inspection of the workplace environment.

This needs to be a comprehensive inspection that is carried out by someone suitably qualified to identify the contents and understand the inherent risks and dangers associated with each potential hazard.

Things to look out for specifically, include identifying when hazardous substances are being transported through above-ground piping and ensuring that labels and markings are used to ensure there is no confusion that could lead to an employee being exposed to a hazard risk.

It is also important to make sure you use labels and tags for the pipework that have been specifically designed for the task. This is because a tag will often need to be resistant to moisture and tearing so that it can be clearly read at all times.

Consider potential hazards

If the pipes in question are being heated by electricity, steam or some other external source, you will need to ensure that suitable warning signs are deployed at various vulnerable points such as unions, valves and other serviceable parts.

Pipe marking is just one important safety measure but you also need to carry out regular inspections to check whether the pipework is displaying any signs of wear and tear in their physical condition.

Another important consideration is to take care when non-potable water is being piped through your facility. If this is the case, any outlets or taps being used need to be clearly labeled so that employees do not attempt to drink or use the water for personal purposes.

Pipe marking in the workplace is such a simple practice but it can also be an important one. It could also save the company money and potentially avoid contributing to workplace accident statistics.

Margaret Held has extensive experience in warehouse and factory supervisory roles. She enjoys passing on her experiences and insights through blogging online. Her articles mainly appear on business blogs.