Worldwide demand for industrial valves continues to increase at a rapid pace. The market size for industrial valves is expected to reach $85.7 billion dollars by 2025 with an annual growth rate of over 12% during the next five years. Emerging markets and urban development are contributing to this rapid growth rate. In addition, the rise of COVID-19 has driven the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to utilize more valves as they ramp up drug development and production capabilities.
Valves play a critical role in managing the flow of liquids and gasses within engineered systems. In some cases, the materials themselves may be hazardous, or they may be stored at high pressure. The need for organized procedures and safety protocols is critical. One of the easiest ways to inform employees and contractors who use these valve systems is to implement a valve tagging program. While each facility and system will be different, there are some excellent best practices that can help you get started.
Properly tagging valves in a facility requires a good amount of preparation to be successful. We’ve created this guide to cover all the important tips and ideas that can help you implement a robust system for tagging valves.
In this guide, we’ll cover the following topics:
- What Are the Benefits of Tagging Valves?
- Valve Tagging Standards & Regulations
- Types of Valve Tags
- Valve Tag Materials
- Proper Valve Tag Placement
- Valve Tagging Best Practices
- Additional Resources on Valve Tagging
What Are the Benefits of Tagging Valves?
The utility pipes that run through a typical commercial building are often part of a complex system. There may be different configurations between warehouses, factories, and office facilities, but there are always many valves present. Some buildings have hundreds or even thousands of valves that each have a specific purpose. These are some of the most obvious benefits of tagging valves.
Many valves connected to modern industrial systems involve some level of automation, but they must always be manually entered into a system during setup. Adding a tag to each valve allows you to utilize barcodes and other identifying information that can semi-automate your asset management processes. Tagging valves ensures that there is standardization among all equipment and reduces the likelihood of misidentification. Custom tags can also be color-coded to match any useful categorization among your valve components.
It is always a good idea to have a consistent valve numbering system in place, with clear identifiers for each valve based on the location within the greater utility design. If you have the opportunity to influence the engineering layout of a facility during the construction phase, you can also determine the best way to align a valve tagging plan with the proposed layout.
Identifying and recognizing the technical specifications of a valve is important for several reasons, the primary one being safety. Valve tags allow you to highlight any safety warnings using specific colors or information. Combined with safety signs and other facility labels, valve tags help communicate the potential dangers that may be found in each location.
Proper safety communication helps facilitate maintenance activities and other work that must be done to operate local equipment. Valve tags that include barcodes can help employees and contractors access service records and other important safety information. Using a comprehensive valve tagging system helps prevent human error and supports a robust asset management platform.
Valve Tagging Standards & Regulations
Within the United States, the regulations that govern the placement of pipes with a facility are well-documented by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). In Europe, the British Standards Institution (BSI) is the most widely referenced organization for similar information. While many of these standards do not identify unique requirements for valves, these components are considered part of piping systems, and many of the general guidelines apply. These are a few of the most important points regarding valve tagging which are referenced in the following standards.
ANSI/ASME A13.1. This is the U.S. standard that applies to general pipe marking. Valves that are part of a larger system must be tagged with an identifying label. A tag numbering system is usually the best way to achieve this, and the color of any identifying marks should follow the recommended six predefined colors. They are:
- Fire-quenching fluids: White text on red background
- Toxic or corrosive fluids: Black text on orange background
- Flammable or oxidizing fluids: Black text on yellow background
- Combustible fluids: White text on brown background
- Other water: White text on green background
- Compressed air or other gases: White text on blue background
In addition to these colors, facility management may also select user-defined tags based on additional colors that are defined in the standard. Always consult the latest version of any standards to confirm specific information.
NFPA99. In addition to ASME and ANSI, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has its own set of safety standards that can be a useful reference for valve tagging. These regulations focus on the use of valves within identified zones inside a building. You will find specifications for marking, identification, and inspection that apply to valves that are newly installed during construction or operated within existing facilities.
IIAR Bulletin No. 114. This bulletin, from the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR), applies to refrigeration units that utilize ammonia. Sections 7.2 and 7.4 discuss the use of proper color coding for valves that are part of these systems.
BS 1710-2014. This standard for identifying pipelines and services is used throughout Europe. Topics include pipe marking guidelines for facility systems, refrigeration units, and water treatment equipment. Similar to the U.S. regulations, many of the details that apply to pipes are also applicable to valves since they are connected to the same systems.
Types of Valve Tags
The most common industrial valve tags are typically identified by the type of valve to which they are attached. Since many facilities contain a combination of HVAC units, boilers, refrigeration units, and other equipment, this helps to simplify the categories. The following are a few of the most common applications for valve tags.
Chemical Valve Tags
These tags are used to mark valves that are connected to pipes that carry chemicals. Due to the potential hazards of these materials, safety is the primary concern for these tags. Using a clear color scheme with proper tags for each type of chemical valve, you can clearly identify each material and maintain a high level of safety.
Waste/Water Pipe Valve Tags
Any pipes which carry water, waste, or other liquids in a facility should also be tagged with standardized labels. Since nearly every commercial or residential facility includes at least a basic water management infrastructure, there are usually color-coded labels for some components already present. In these situations, you can often match your valve tags to the existing color schemes.
Gas Valve Tags
Gasses that are delivered through pipes in a facility are usually maintained at high pressure. This characteristic, along with the fact that so many types of gasses exist, requires careful planning for appropriately tagging the connected valves. The standardized colors set by appropriate regulations should be used to avoid any confusion.
Lock Out, Tag Out (LOTO) Tags
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) defines the LOTO standard practice as a way to protect workers from the potential release of hazardous energy from any equipment that is being accessed. This special subset of tags can be used on valves to mark them as inoperable while other work is being carried out.
Valve Tag Materials
Valve tags can be fabricated using a number of different materials. It is always best to choose a material based on the specific environment for each valve application. Determining the most compatible material from the start will save you time and reduce the risk of damage to your labels.
Metal Valve Tags
Metal is an excellent choice for a valve tag material due to the generally high durability and level of customization available. Since metal tags are usually very rigid, a plastic or metal chain can be used to attach the tag to the valve.
- Aluminum. Aluminum is generally lightweight metal that has excellent durability. The most common types found in labels and tags are anodized aluminum and Metalphoto® photosensitive anodized aluminum. Both versions have graphics that are sealed beneath a protective layer. Metalphoto is one of the most durable materials available and is well-suited for use in the most demanding applications.
- Stainless Steel. The high density of stainless steel makes it a very clean metal that is known for its antimicrobial properties. It is an excellent choice for marking valves that are used in food processing and packaging facilities.
- Brass. With a distinctive golden metallic appearance, brass is often chosen for applications where the look of the tag is important. Using a brass valve tag adds a certain level of quality to the design. It is softer than many other metals and is best used for applications in environments that are not overly demanding.
Plastic Valve Tags
Since plastic is easy to mold and conform to customized dimensions, this material is a popular choice for valve tags. Especially at higher volumes, plastic valve tags can be an economical option for use with custom printed and reusable labels. The most common standard plastics used for valve tags are polyester, polycarbonate, and vinyl.
Proper Valve Tag Placement
The standards provided by ANSI are a robust resource for understanding best practices for valve tag placement. In general terms, these are some of the most important tips to keep in mind when adding your tags to each valve. Valve tags should:
- Be easily accessible
- Be clearly visible from different angles
- Avoid valve stems, actuators, or other interfering components
You should also ensure that valve tags do NOT:
- Interfere with the movement and operation of the valve
- Conflict with other equipment labels or safety signage
If you distribute your valve tags in an organized way, they can provide a great benefit for your team’s productivity and the overall efficiency of your operation. Always favor clear and consistent design elements, and whenever you have doubts regarding the suitability of a valve tag design, always consult the appropriate regulations.
Valve Tagging Best Practices
We’ve already covered many critical points to consider when implementing a valve tagging system. Here are a couple of additional best practices that may be helpful for you during your planning phase.
Use a Valve Chart
Many facility management experts recommend the use of a valve chart to help communicate the details of an overall valve management plan. These charts summarize a list of all the important valves and their corresponding tag information. When posted in a visible area near critical equipment, a valve chart acts as an excellent reference for employees and other support personnel who need to access the valves frequently. These charts can also reference associated logbooks and other asset management records.
Implement Color-Coded Valve Tags
Selecting valve tag colors that are meaningful is always a better option than selecting a single color or using no system at all. As mentioned above, there are standards in place that identify equipment, component, and material hazards based on particular colors. Matching your valve selection and design elements to this color scheme can be helpful, while also using any customized colors to communicate valve identification or other relevant information to your staff.
Selecting valve tags for your facility is a straightforward process when you properly plan for the material selection, placement, and operation for these important markings. By following the advice and guidelines highlighted in this post you can create a comprehensive asset management program that includes proper tagging for your valves.
Further Reading on Tagging Valves
To learn more about valve tags and best practices for implementing a valve tagging program, visit the following resources:
- Proper Valve Labeling and Identification Tips: Labeling the Right Parts, Understanding Labeling Standards, Valve Tags, and More
- The Complete Guide to Inspection Tags and Regulations for Boilers, Industrial Pressure Vessels, Valves & More
- CGA C-9-2013 – Standard Color Marking of Compressed Gas
- How to Select a Valve Actuator: Types of Valve Actuators, Appropriate Sizing, Safety Criteria, and More
- Lockout / Tagout OSHA Fact Sheet
- Best Practices for Testing Pressure Relief Valves: Regular Testing and Maintenance, Replacements, and More
- Boiler Safety Valve Rules and Regulations: Nameplate Requirements, ASME Standards, State Regulations, and More
- Piping Identification and Valve Tagging Standard (CMU)
- How Does a Hydraulic Flow Control Valve Work? Function of Hydraulic Flow Control Valves, Types, Design Considerations, and More
- What is the Best Type of Flow Control Valve for Your Application? Learn about Gate Valves, Globe Valves and Other Flow Control Valves