These days, more North Americans are grilling than ever before. A recent study conducted by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association shows that more than 80% of all U.S. households own and frequently use one or more grills. While two major summer holidays have already passed with grill use at peak levels, the fact is that the majority of grill owners use their grills year-round with almost half of them grilling two or more times each week in July through September. I happen to be one of those individuals who works to raise the average by grilling as many days as possible throughout the year, even to the point of shoveling snow to get to my grill in the winter.
Grilling may be fun and convenient, but it's not without its hazards. According to a study by the Propane Education & Research Council, roughly 4,000 grilling safety incidents occur each year in the U.S. that result in property damage and serious injuries - and this statistic relates to just propane-fueled grills.
As a grilling enthusiast and a safety person, I thought I would share some tips that can help you safely enjoy your barbecue. This list is not exhaustive by any means. So, I encourage you to take the time to read owners' manuals for your grills and safety warning materials that apply to the grill fuels (i.e., propane, charcoal, etc.).
12 Safety Rules for Grillers
1. Barbecue grills are for outdoor use only. No exceptions! Never use the grill in your house, garage, trailer, tent or any enclosed area. Carbon monoxide can be a product of combustion, and can accumulate and cause death.
2. Use the grill in an open and well-ventilated area. It should sit on a flat and level surface, and be at least 10 feet away from buildings and combustibles.
3. Never use an electric starter in the rain or when standing on a wet surface.
4. Don't lean over the grill when lighting, igniting or cooking.
5. Don't move a grill that's in use.
6. Wear clothing without loose strings or other hanging components that can catch fire.
7. Never leave a grill unattended once it has been lit.
8. Keep children and pets away from the grill area. Consider a three-foot "kid-free zone" around the grill.
9. For charcoal grills:
- Use a proper starter fluid.
- Store the can of starter fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
- Never add starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
- Never use gasoline or other combustible or flammable liquids in place of starter fluid.
10. For gas grills:
- Check the metal tubes that lead directly to the burner since insects can block them. Clean them by following the manufacturer's instructions, typically by using a pipe cleaner or wire to remove blockage.
- Check hoses for cracks, holes and sharp bends. Replace any hose that appears to be damaged.
- Each time a new cylinder is connected to the grill, follow your grill manufacturer's instructions for checking the connection to make sure the connections are leak-free.
- Never attempt to connect a cylinder to a grill unless the connections properly and completely match.
- Always keep the lid open when lighting to prevent a flash-off from gas build-up.
- If you smell gas, turn the grill off immediately and do not use it until the problem can be corrected.
- Never store a propane cylinder indoors, even if you think it's empty.
11. When finished grilling:
- Dispose of charcoal ashes in heavy duty foil and soak with water completely before disposing in a non-combustible container.
- Turn off propane burner controls and close the cylinder service valve.
12. Periodically remove grease and fat build-up in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.
Additional grilling safety information is available at various websites, including www.hpba.org and www.usepropane.com/consumer_safety. Get the ultimate enjoyment out of your barbecue by taking all appropriate safety measures to protect your family, friends and others who are nearby while you demonstrate your outdoor culinary skills.