Barbecue Safety

With nice spring weather around the corner many homeowners will start their barbecue season, however many will ignore some important and often neglected safety precautions associated with it.

Gas, charcoal and electric grills can pose serious safety risks if they are not operated correctly.  Most accidents occur after the grill has been unused over a period of time or after a grill’s propane gas tank has been reattached.

Below are some basic guidelines which should be followed when using grills.

Propane grills

Propane grills are known to be an extreme fire hazard.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), around 500 fires annually are caused by the propane grill's malfunction or misuse. The following safety recommendations should be followed when using propane grills:

  1. Never store or transport propane tanks in your car’s trunk.

  2. Always store your propane tanks outside in a place where it can’t be easily damaged.

  3. Never use a propane grill on a terrace or balcony.

  4. Up to 20-pound propane tanks are allowed per single family home.

  5. Inspect your propane tank connections for loose connections and leaks before use, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. This is easily done by pouring some soapy water on the connections, and if you see bubbling, the connections need to be tighten or replaced.

  6. Check for damage such as dents or cracks on the tank before refilling it.

  7. Ignite a propane grill with the grill lid open, not closed. Gas can accumulate below a closed lid and explode.

  8. To ensure that no gas is left in the supply lines, when finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls.

More safety tips can be found in the CPSC's "Gas Grill Fact Sheet"

Charcoal grills

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the main safety concern associated with charcoal grills. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 20 people die annually from accidental CO poisoning while operating charcoal grills. The following safety recommendations should be followed when using charcoal grills:

  1. Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is well-ventilated.

  2. Never use starter fluid over an open flame. Always leave the fluid to soak into the coals for a minute or two before igniting it to prevent the ignition of the explosive vapors.

  3. Charcoal grills can be used on patios and balconies but they need to be at least 10 feet away from any building, and a water source must be available in the immediate proximity of the grill. The water source should be at least four gallons of water or ideally a water hose.

  4. Never fill more than two inches of charcoal in the grill.

  5. After every use, grills should be cleaned by disposing cooled ashes in the metal container and adding water.

Electric grills

Even though electric grills are considered to be a safer barbecuing option than propane and charcoal grills, electric grills need to be used by following some basic safety measures.  

  1. Newer use any combustible materials in an electric grill.

  2. Always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

  3. The best practice is not to use any extension cords with an electric grill. If you need to use an extension cord, make sure that it is rated for the required amperage for the grill used.

  4. Always protect the extension cords with guards if they are crossing a busy foot path.

  5. Unplug your electric grill and/or extension cord when not in use.

General Grill Safety guidelines

In addition to the above mentioned safety guidelines, the following are some general safety recommendations for grill use:

  1. Always store grill lighters and fluid starters in a safe place out of reach of children.

  2. Use your grill in a safe place away from pathways, children, playgrounds and pets.

  3. Never leave any grill unattended, and keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking.

  4. Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill, as they are highly flammable.

  5. Use flame-resistant oven mitts.

  6. When cleaning out the grease and other debris in the grill, make sure to check for rust or other signs of deterioration.

  7. Never place warm or hot grill in storage, as a fire can easily start.

  8. Buy grills and containers that bear the mark of a nationally-recognized testing laboratory.

More Grilling safety tips and recalled grills info can be found on the CPSC's website