OSHA vs. ANSI Pipe Marking – What You Need to Know

ansi pipe marker for fire sprinkler waterBusy safety managers have plenty of rules and regulations to keep track of, and pipe marking standards may sound complex. That’s because pipe marking regulations aren’t universally adopted by the various standards agencies. Despite this fact, pipe marking doesn’t need to be terribly difficult because you can follow one set of requirements that will help you satisfy all of the others: ANSI/ASME A13.1.

The Difference Between OSHA and ANSI

Let’s back up a moment. Normally OSHA standards clearly spell out what a business needs to do to remain complaint in a particular area, and when directives aren’t clearly spelled out, OSHA points to a set of standards from another agency that should be followed. The reason pipe marking is a little less straightforward is because OSHA’s standard on the issue, 29 CFR 1910.261 (a)(3)(ii), only states:

Scheme for the Identification of Piping Systems, A13.1 – 1956.

OSHA references the standard from ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, but it doesn’t refer to the most current version. ANSI and ASME, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, released updated pipe marking recommendations, ANSI/ASME A13.1, in 2007, and that is the current industry consensus standard. That means that ANSI has a newer, more detailed set of pipe marking guidelines than OSHA.

Technically speaking, safety managers only need to comply with OSHA standards. If an accident resulted from a pipe-related hazard in the workplace, however, OSHA could potentially claim the facility didn’t use all practical means of correcting the hazard because an industry consensus standard existed that wasn’t followed. This could open the door for a citation under OSHA’s General Duty Clause for not providing a place of employment free from recognized hazards.

So basically, although OSHA does not specifically state that workplaces must follow the current ANSI/ASME recommendations for pipe marking, it’s a good idea to follow these recommendations anyway. Plus, following these guidelines can improve safety, efficiency and communication in the workplace because workers will be able to quickly find out what is in any pipe.

ANSI/ASME Pipe Marking Basics

ANSI color codes for pipe labelsANSI/ASME recommendations cover three main aspects of pipe color codes: label color, label size and label placement. These pipe markers help communicate information about the contents of pipes and any potential hazards associated with those contents.

Six colors are assigned to pipe contents (yellow, red, orange, green, blue and brown), and you can see what those colors represent in the chart below. ANSI also includes four additional colors (purple, black, white and gray) that can be used as your facility sees fit. (Just make sure you standardize what those colors mean if you use them and share that information with workers.)

Finally, the placement of labels is important; everyone needs to be able to easily read the labels. Four general rules explain where to place pipe labels:

  • At all changes in direction
  • On both sides of entry points through floors and walls
  • Next to all valves and flanges
  • At 25 to 50 foot intervals on straight runs

By following these recommendations from ANSI, you can ensure your workers and any outside personnel who might respond during an emergency will be able to quickly get the information they need about pipes without asking lots of questions. Furthermore, by following these recommendations, your facility will have no trouble satisfying OSHA during an inspection.

Have more questions about pipe marking? The SlideShare below can help. You can also see a variety of pipe marking labels and label printers at Creative Safety Supply.

Pipe Marking 101 by Creative Safety Supply from Creative Safety Supply

Additional Resources