Summer Barbecue Safety Tips

Prevent Injury Around Barbecue Grills

Flipping a row of sizzling burgers on a grill is one of summer's simple pleasures. But there is danger lurking in those glowing embers, and the potential damage is far worse than a few charred cheeseburgers.

Because barbecue grills are operated in a casual, relaxed atmosphere, they tend to be taken for granted. That leaves open the potential for injury. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 5,400 emergency room visits due to injury caused by barbecue grills in 2022. There are an average of 13 deaths each year related to misusing barbecue grills.

Read up on our barbecue safety tips before firing up the grill this summer.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Each year, Americans go to the emergency room because of injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by charcoal grills, according to the CPSC. When you burn charcoal, carbon monoxide (CO) is produced. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal in closed areas.

Charcoal grill safety tips:

  • Never burn charcoal inside your home, or inside vehicles, tents or campers. Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if you have ventilation.
  • Never store a grill indoors with coals you have just burned because charcoal produces CO until the charcoal is completely extinguished.
  • Never use gasoline when starting a charcoal fire. Gasoline will explode. Use only approved charcoal lighter fluid.
  • Cap the starter fluid immediately after using it and store it a safe distance from the grill.

Another common mistake: not using enough starter fluid initially, then risking a fire or explosion by adding more fluid to the hot coals.

If you dump the coals out of the grill when they are still warm, make sure to keep children away from them. Stepping on hot coals can cause a severe burn, especially in children.

How to use a Gas Grill Safely

Gas or liquid petroleum (LP) grills also carry a risk because the LP gas or propane is extremely flammable, the CPSC says. Fires and explosions from LP gas grills are the main cause of injury.

The commission says most of these fires and explosions occur when a person uses a grill that has not been used for a while, or just after refilling and reattaching the gas container on the grill.

Gas or Liquid Petroleum Grill Safety Tips:

Check for leaks every time you disconnect or reconnect the regulator to the LP tank. If you find a leak, immediately turn off the gas at the tank and don't attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed. Until it is repaired, keep lighted cigarettes, matches or open flames away from it. Here are more safety tips:

  • Check the valve connections and hoses to be sure they are in good working order. The hoses should have no cracks, holes, or leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.
  • Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders or food grease. Use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear blockage and push it through to the main part of the burner.
  • Replace scratched or nicked connectors, which can eventually leak gas.
  • Never attempt to repair the tank valve or the appliance yourself. See an LP gas dealer or a qualified appliance repair person.
  • Never use a grill indoors. Use the grill at least 10 feet away from any building. Don't use the grill in a garage, carport, porch, or under a surface that can catch fire.
  • Never start a gas grill with the cover closed.
  • When the LP tank is connected, the grill must be stored outdoors in a well-ventilated area.
  • Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill. Never store a full container indoors. Never store or use flammable liquids, such as gasoline, near the grill.
  • Never keep a filled fuel container in a hot car or car trunk. Heat will cause the gas pressure to increase, causing the relief valve to open and allowing gas to escape.

Lighting Up: How to Sizzle in Safety

  • Pour the charcoal into the bottom of the grill and pile it into a pyramid shape.
  • Pour commercially prepared starter fluid over the coals. One-half to one cup usually is enough.
  • Let the starter fluid soak in for one minute before lighting.
  • Use tongs to disperse the coals into one layer after they are ready. It usually takes 30 minutes after lighting the coals to get the coating of gray ash that indicates they are ready.

Emergency Care at University Health

If you need care fast, University Health has walk-in clinics across San Antonio in addition to our centrally located emergency department. Learn more about our walk-in clinics on our website.

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