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Workplace Solutions

Industrial labels

How do I determine the proper label size for a job?

January 8, 2014

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Responding is Jack Rubinger, industrial copywriter, Graphic Products, Beaverton, OR.

From the Sonoran desert to Alaska’s frozen tundra, to the sweatbox boiler rooms of pre-war apartment buildings, pipes are working all day, every day, transporting fluids, gases and other substances.

Richard Barry is an associate with SRP, one of Arizona’s largest utilities that delivers about 1 million acre-feet of water annually to a 375-square-mile service area and manages a 13,000-square-mile watershed that includes an extensive system of reservoirs, wells, canals and irrigation laterals. In Barry’s world – the Grand Canyon state – pipes are carrying water, steam, fuel and chemicals.

All those pipes need to be labeled for contents and directional flow so maintenance crews who cover hundreds of miles of territory can make repairs when necessary. Proper identification of pipe contents also is a vital safety precaution.

These steel pipes – insulated with sheet metal – range from 1 inch to 18 inches wide. Labels are exposed to chemicals, oils, dirt and dust, and need to be easily visible to maintenance crews.

Pipe labeling standards ensure high visibility:

  • 10+ inch-wide pipe: 32-inch-wide label with 3.5-inch-high letters
  • 8- to 10-inch-wide pipe: 24-inch-wide label with 2.5-inch-high letters
  • 2.5- to 6-inch-wide pipe: 12-inch-wide label with 1.25-inch-high letters
  • 1.5- to 2-inch-wide pipe: 8-inch-wide label with 0.75-inch-high letters

Tagging valves

At thousands of refineries, chemical plants and hazardous waste facilities worldwide, leaking valves, pumps, connectors, compressors and agitators can and do discharge volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants into the atmosphere. Raw-material leaks pose serious environmental and safety hazards and impact plant productivity and profitability.

Leak detection and repair services, under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal, state and local requirements, are compulsory at chemical plants and refineries. Based on EPA statistics, the average-sized plant may have from 3,000 to 30,000 individual components that are monitored.

This almost overwhelming situation is managed using a wide range of tools and resources, including outsourced monitoring and compliance services, detection devices, software, and training. The physical identification of the valves, pumps, connectors, compressors and agitators also can be addressed through an assortment of approaches, including tags that come in widths up to 7 inches.

The Big Apple

If you manage a New York apartment building, you’ve got to know where that water is flowing to put out fires and for upgrades, maintenance and inspections. With pre-war buildings and ancient water pipes, repairs are costly and inconvenient to dwellers dealing with essential service interruptions during major water pipe repairs. Although water pipes and shut-off valve locations may be identifiable when schematic drawings are available, usually this documentation doesn’t exist – especially with older properties.

It’s important to track down small leaks as they occur when maintaining water supply and drain lines in pre-war buildings. But which pipe goes where? And what’s in it? Labeling these 2- to 6-inch-wide pipes makes good sense. The process is simply called “pipe marking” and the investment of time required in labeling the pipes saves time and money and provides a layer of safety for both residents and maintenance crews.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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