Pipeline Marking System in Food Industries

In food and dairy industry settings, products and utility fluids are carried from one corner of the facility to another through a network of pipes snaking underground, overhead, and along walls. At first glance, it is anyone’s guess as to what the pipe is carrying — it could be raw milk, CIP fluids like acid, lye, steam, etc., or simply tap water. Because of this, it is important to be able to keep track of the contents in each pipe as well as its destination. For facility managers, maintenance employees working in the area, and emergency responders, the proper labeling of pipes means more than staying compliant — it ensures the facility is safe and efficient. When pipes are well-marked and color-coded, maintenance personnel can easily trace pipes to the source, no second-guessing of what is in the pipes occurs, emergency responders can identify contents, and errors in pipe identification can be avoided or significantly reduced.

Importance of Pipeline Labeling and Coding

Markings of pipelines and piping materials are standard industry practices. Color marking will make identification easier for raw material and fluid that being transport by the pipe. It quickly communicates essential information to everyone in a facility, improving overall workplace safety and productivity. If color codes are ignored, employees are at a higher risk of causing an accident that may result in physical harm as well as damage to the facility. For example, if a worker opens a pipe that is not identified correctly, he or she may expect clean water but instead, open a valve to find toxic chemicals. Painting your equipment, including machines, water lines, and chemical lines, according to color coding standards allows you not only to protect your valuable assets against environmental factors but also to standardize the visual communication for statuses, cautions, hazards, etc., eliminate guesswork, simplify tasks, and improve safety and productivity by minimizing the risk of errors and workplace accidents.

Below is the color-coding guide for industrial applications. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have developed a comprehensive collection of standards to guide the use of “safety” colors, signs, and symbols in industrial environments.


Pipe Markings is not a complicated process, especially if industry standards are used. There are many standards out there from a variety of sources such as:

  1. ASME/ANSI A13.1 – Scheme for the Identification of Piping Systems
  2. BS 1710 – Specification for Identification of Pipelines and Services
  3. IS 2379 – Pipelines Identification Color Code
  4. PFI ES-22 – Recommended Practice for Color Coding of Piping Materials

The ASME Standard for Pipe Identification is a widely used guideline in determining pipe identification requirements. The ASME A13.1-2007 editorial notes indicate that “A13.1 is intended to establish a common system to assist in the identification of hazardous materials conveyed in piping systems and their hazards when released in the environment.” This standard explains the colors, text, size, and placement of pipe marking labels.


Components of Pipeline Markings:

  1. Bold text/ Legends: For identification of the pipe’s contents by name. (Additional details, such as temperature or pressure, may also appear.)
  2. Color coding: For communicating the general category of the contents.
  3. Flow direction arrows: To show which direction the pipe’s contents flow.
  4. Pictograms: Common warning symbols to alert people to potential dangers.

Pipe Marking Size Requirements:

The color of pipe markings is typically the most important and visible aspect of the label, but it is not the only one. ANSI also has standards regarding how large a pipe marking label should be and the size of the lettering on the label. This is especially important when creating custom labels for a facility. The standards for sizing are as follows:

These standards are important because they will help ensure that the pipe markings are as visible as possible, even from a distance.

Best practices

Whether pipes run through walls, are on a boat, or carry, pipe labels need to be seen clearly and withstand a variety of elements. The following are best practices to achieve the optimal label system.

  1. Accuracy: In addition to the word that describes the pipe contents, symbols, and further information should be included. An arrow on the label should indicate the flow direction of liquid and can include other symbols such as warning or hazard symbols. Precautions can also be listed in a smaller size under the main content to ensure safety.
  2. Label material: The material of the label needs to adhere to a variety of pipe surfaces. For example, a vinyl label could cause corrosion on a nickel pipe, so it would be wise to opt for a label made from polyester. Additionally, materials should be able to withstand the environment they are in — e.g., temperatures, sun exposure — and the contents — e.g., chemical, oils — of the pipe.
  3. Placement: Labels must always be clearly visible from the normal angle of approach. For example, if the pipe is overhead, apply the label below the centerline. If the pipe is below eye level, apply the label above the centerline. Additional recommendations for label placement:
  • Near all valves and flanges.
  • Adjacent to changes in direction.
  • Both sides of floor/wall penetrations.
  • At regular intervals on straight runs of pipe; at least one label every 50 feet (about 15 meters) throughout the piping run.

 4. Ease of access: Labels need to be placed on the pipe so workers, first responders or anyone else can clearly identify the contents from normal viewpoints.

5. Extra labels: The standards set forth by ANSI/ASME are the minimum requirements. Facilities are free to add extra labels in any place they see fit. In addition to the regulated labels, a safety manager could add in labels that provide more information about a chemical or direction when handling a hazardous liquid.

  1. Quick replacement: Durable labels will not last a lifetime, and in the event of a damaged or unreadable label, it is crucial the markings are replaced in a timely manner. 
  2. Training: Employees and new hires should be offered comprehensive training to understand the facility’s pipe labeling system. 
  3. Visual reminders: Visual reminders like wall posters or employee-carried charts can provide a constant reminder of proper procedures, regulations, standards, and practices in the facility. 
  4. Abandoned pipes: All pipes, even abandoned ones, should be labeled to avoid any confusion. 
  5. Lighting: While pipes are often in areas that do not get too much light such as under the floors or in the rafters, it is helpful to ensure enough light is reaching them so people can see the colors and words on the labels.

Pipe labeling can save lives, reduce injury, and prevent extensive damage in a facility. Facility managers, safety managers, employees, and maintenance workers should not be kept in the dark when it comes to what is inside a pipe, especially if it is hazardous. Kicking off a pipe labeling project or revamping current practices can drastically increase the safety of a workplace and ultimately keep workers informed and more efficient.  

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