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Implementing a best practice approach to pipe and valve marking

Posted by Clarion Safety on 6th Mar 2011

Most facilities have piping and processes that require pipe and valve markings. Whether you manage safety for a school or a factory, the basic requirements are the same. Just knowing what's in the pipe and which way it's contents are flowing can reduce the risk of hazards. How? Because these labels and markings quickly communicate critical information that assists those supervising production processes so they can make right decisions. And in an emergency situation, proper pipe and valve marking can communicate critical information to key response personnel... information such as pipe content, flow direction, origin and destination. Such knowledge, at the point of viewer interaction, greatly increases your ability to control processes and potential hazards should the need arise.

Pipe marking and applicable codes

ANSI A13.1 Pipe Markers – Pipe marking standards are provided by both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Code. Both organizations have published the same code and both have numbered it A13.1. These are the standards that apply to most facilities and pipe markers. Whether it is an oil refinery or a gourmet restaurant, ANSI A13.1 applies.

Ammonia Pipe Markers (IIAR) – This standard is published by the International Institute For Ammonia Refrigeration. Anhydrous ammonia is widely used as a refrigerant in food and drink production sites, including meat, fish, and poultry processing facilities, ice cream and dairy facilities, juice and soft drink processing facilities, wineries, and breweries. Refrigerant grade anhydrous ammonia is a clear, colorless liquid or gas, free from visible impurities. It is at least 99.95 percent pure ammonia. Water cannot have a content above 33 parts per million (ppm) and oil cannot have a content above 2 ppm. Purity of the ammonia is essential to ensure proper function of the refrigeration system. It's also deadly.

Medical Gas Pipe Markers (CGA) – Medical gas pipe marking is a critical application for hospitals or facilities requiring strict compliance in order to receive accreditation from the Joint Commission. The National Fire Prevention Associations "Standards for Health Care Facilities" NFPA 99 standard establishes labeling requirements for gas systems in medical facilities. NFPA 99 requires permanent labeling of contents, direction of flow, and pressure of all pipes carrying medical gasses including Oxygen, Vacuum, Medical Air, Nitrous Oxide, Nitrogen or Carbon Dioxide. This includes signage on the door of any enclosure or room containing piping, valves, or other medical gas components.

HVAC Pipe Markers – ANSI standards for pipe marking apply to heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. Container HVAC-related labeling is set by ASHRAE and ARI.

Marine Pipe Markers – Marine pipe markers use an international standard (ISO 1476-2) that defines the color and design of pipe markers used on ships, which is critically important to the safety of those aboard the vessel. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standards for Shipyard Employment Ship's Machinery and Piping Systems.

Commercial Buildings – The ANSI A13.1 pipe marking standard applies to commercial buildings. Note that because there are often a large number of applications and destinations for pipes in commercial buildings, additional labeling over and above what the ANSI standard calls out may be required to adequately identify pipes to ensure a safe environment.

Placing the pipe marker where it can be seen

It should go without saying, but the following words need to be spelled out in your pipe marker implementation plan: "Pipe and valve markings need to be placed where they can be seen." Think about it. You follow the appropriate standards, your labels are designed with the right letter size and color combination, you tailor the pipe markers to include the right information, and you purchase the markings from the right manufacturer who uses materials you can trust for long-term adhesion are the right choices. But these things are for naught if the pipe marker is placed in a location where it cannot be seen.

Common sense (and your installation plan now says) that your pipe markers should be placed where they can be seen. Examples include: on the lower side of the pipe if people need to look up to the pipe, or on the upper side of the pipe if people look down on the pipe. Labels should also be applied on all piping segments, including places where your pipes change direction or pass through walls and floors. And finally, pipe markers should be placed at regular intervals on long runs of pipe so they can be seen from various points of view throughout the run. Basically, you want to be in a position to say that you adequately marked your pipes and valves, taking into full account an accurate appraisal of how and where people will be seeing the markings.

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