Pipe Marking Guide: Colour Codes & Safety Labelling for Pipes

When it comes to health and safety, industrial environments have many factors to take into consideration. Whether it’s working with chemicals or machinery, numerous accidents can occur, so it’s essential to take specific measures.

One such measure is pipe colour code systems, which let people know about the substances a pipe might contain and what dangers that might lead to.

In this post, we will discuss the pipe colour code and reveal the meaning behind each colour. Let’s dive in.

Why Is Pipe Marking Important?

Using colours to mark pipes has many benefits, and most importantly – it works in unison with proper health and safety measures. However, it’s essential to understand that pipe marking isn’t a fix-all solution, and it should enhance the productivity and operational safety of a company. 

For example, you might use pipe labelling to highlight a specific safety issue, but that doesn’t mean your workforce should rely entirely on labels. However, using color codes offers many benefits, so let’s take a look at them. 

It Can Save Money 

Errors can cost a lot of money to put right, and there are numerous factors to consider. For example, if a pipe has clear labelling, people know to behave near it, and you can avoid costly repairs. 

You’ll Save Lives 

It might seem slightly dramatic, but pipe labels can save the lives of your employees. When a pipe is unmarked, unnecessary accidents can occur, and some might even be life-threatening. 

Luckily, small changes can make a world of difference, and while industrial workplace-related deaths are rare, they can cause legal implications for owners, and it’s always best to avoid them at all costs. 

Higher Levels of Efficiency 

Using pipe markers enhances your efficiency and productivity levels greatly because your workforce knows where to intervene and which areas they should avoid. In addition, external agencies, such as contractors, can work quickly when they know the potential dangers they might face. 

Improve Your Compliance 

The primary purpose of pipe markers is to let people know what they contain and the potential dangers they possess, but they can also prove your company is compliant with the national guidelines. 

This is important because it improves your reputation and makes your company a better option for employees and potential clients. 

Colour Codes for Pipe Markers 

There is an agreed-upon code for pipe markers in most cases, but it can differ depending on your industry and country. Nevertheless, there are many similarities between the codes, and some are indistinguishable. 

Let’s take a look at the British pipe marking system. You might also know it as the BS 1710 system. Many companies use this pipe marking system alongside the BS 4800 colour chart used by paint and printing companies.

Steam: Silver/Grey – 10 A 03

Water: Green – 12 D 45

Gases (including liquid phase): Yellow Ochre – 08 C 35

Oils (mineral, vegetable or animal): Brown – 06 C 39

Air: Light Blue – 20 E 51

Acids & Alkalis: Violet – 22 C 37

Ventilation Ducts and Electric Surfaces: Orange – 06 E 51

Any liquids not covered above: Black – 00 E 53 A13.

America uses a pipe marking basic identification system, known as ASME A13.1, as do many countries. There is – however, an international pipe colour code, which also has numerous specifications, and while many are similar to the British variation, there are some distinct differences that are important to know – especially if you’re operating in Ireland.

Air: Blue

Water: Green

Fixed Materials & Liquids: Black

Gas (in its natural form of gas or liquid): Grey

Acids: Orange

Alkalis: Violet

Hazardous Substances: Yellow

Firefighting: Red

Further Pipe Marking Guidelines

In addition to pipe colour coding, the European Union also sets out a range of warning symbols that also apply to pipe markers. You’ll find them appearing alongside BS 1710 and ANSI A13.1 identification colours.

Known as The Globally Harmonised Classification System (GHS) or Classification Labelling and Packaging of Mixtures/Substances (CLP), the primary identification system represents a range of symbols that should apply to piping systems too.

The extensive range of symbols and code indications include the following symbols:

Explosives – GHS01

May explode if exposed to shock or fire.

Oxidisers – GHS03

They are known for burning without air and can be extremely dangerous.

Corrosives – GHS05

Can cause severe damage if they come into contact with the skin and eyes.

Flammable – GHS02

They can cause fires if they’re exposed to ignition sources.

Gasses Under Pressure – GHS04

Freezing gas that might explode if they’re exposed to heat.

Toxic Material – GHS06

Toxic material may cause severe side effects and even death in some cases if people come into contact with it.

There are many other symbols and codes, but the ones we’ve just mentioned are the most important for industrial businesses.

Where to Place Pipe Markers & Labels

So now you know about pipe marking and the BS 1710 colour coding system and how it differs from the international safety colours, it’s time to learn about pipeline label placement. 

While it might not seem very important, knowing how to display your identification colours on piping systems makes sure you’re compliant with governmental and EU guidelines.

Here are the basic points you need to remember:

  • Always place your pipe marking material on both sides of pipes or connection valves to make sure everyone can see them.
  • Use walls, floors and other penetration areas to ensure maximum visibility.
  • Place pipe marking at the beginning and the end of pipe racks.
  • Always make sure your indoor markers for piping systems are no longer than 10m. Outdoor markers have no restrictions as there are rarely any items that might block their visibility.

Things to Consider

Whether you choose to use the BS 1710 or an international basic identification system, you’ll probably have some questions about it. Well, we’ll do our best to discuss everything you should consider about using labels for your pipe colour coding system.

Why Not Paint?

Some people are under the impression that using paint for their colour coding system can save them more money and effort. But it’s not the case. Labels offer the most convenient solution for your pipe colour system because they’re durable and much easier to adjust.

With paint, you need to hire someone to apply it and think about how the fumes might cause health and safety issues. Paint jobs will also need more maintenance because it needs to be bright for your colour coding system.

As the paint begins to fade, there could be confusion about which substance it represents, leading to more accidents in the workplace. This is especially true if you’re using a safety colour on your pipeline, such as red, which could easily be mistaken for orange once it fades.

Which pipeline attachment is best?

When it comes to which attachment is best for your pipeline, there’s no right or wrong answer – because every business is different. The first thing you should think about is the environment you operate in.

Each pipe marker needs to be made of strong material to retain important information, such as the identification colour, icons, and coding (whether it’s international or British).

Most pipe marking tools are self-adhesive, but there are alternatives known as pipe marker carriers. To decide which is right for you, it’s important to consider whether your pipes can hold adhesive labels or if they’re likely to become unstuck quickly.

The pipe contents will be the deciding factor but check with your supplier because they might supply more robust labels if you require them.

If your pipe contents are extremely cold or hot, then it’s probably best to choose snap around pipe markers, which will not be affected .

Final Thoughts

Labelling your pipelines is essential to protect your business and employees from potential accidents that could be costly. If you’re unsure about which identification reference is best for your need, you can check the following sources or contact our team for advice.

British Standards: BSI Group

Irish Standards: NSAI 

We offer a range of services, including labels for your pipelines and a range of solutions, including duct pipe labels, strap-on pipe markers and roll form pipe markers.

Our friendly customer service team can offer advice on which is best for you. We provide a range of reference colours, including yellow, red, brown, green and everything you need to make your indoor or outdoor work environment a safer place.

If you’d like some support with code indications, we can offer our expert advice. Remember, labelling your pipe contents can prevent accidents and shows you’re a serious company that takes responsibility for the safety aspects of its services. So don’t delay in improving your business today.

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