Don’t Get Burned by Unsafe Grilling This Summer

There’s nothing more synonymous with summertime than backyard barbecues. While you gather with coworkers, friends, and family for outdoor cookouts this year, just remember that outdoor grilling poses some serious risks.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, propane-related grilling accidents cause more than 7,000 fires and explosions annually, resulting in 20,000 emergency room visits and an average of at least 20 deaths per year.1 Beyond personal injury, grill fires also cause an estimated $37 million in damage to residential properties annually.2

One way to ensure a safe grilling season is known as the soapy water test. To administer this test, simply spray all your gas tanks, hoses, and connections with soapy water. If the soapy water is actively bubbling anywhere, that means you have a gas leak in that spot. In this event, you either need to tighten up that connection to correct the issue, or you need to replace that hose, tank or connection altogether. Never try to do more than you’re capable of doing on your own, and always call the fire department if you detect a gas leak that could cause an explosive buildup.

While leaky gas lines, valves, and tanks are often to blame for grill explosions, human error is another frequent factor. According to experts, the most common mistake people make when grilling is that they turn on the gas with the grill cover down, allowing gases to build up that explode when the operator hits the igniter, even after just a momentary distraction.

The solution is simple and may seem obvious by now: keep the lid open before you light the grill. When you turn on the gas, always light it right away so that it never has the opportunity to build up, and never lean over the top of the grill when igniting it.

It’s not just gas grills that pose a potential for problems, either. While using charcoal to cook is generally pretty safe, people can still forget basic safety principles (especially when alcohol is a factor). The carbon monoxide released by burning charcoal sends about 400 people to the emergency room each year, resulting in about 20 deaths per year.

The most dangerous situations tend to happen in the wintertime when snow and ice storms knock out power, and people fire up their grills in confined, unventilated, and indoor spaces. However, accidents have also happened in the summertime when people move their grills indoors when the weather turns sour at a summer barbecue.

Backyard grilling is a great way to spend time with loved ones during the warm summer months. Be sure to stay safe by always following these easy precautions:

  • If your grill doesn’t light right away, don’t keep hitting the igniter switch. Shut off the gas completely, and wait three to five minutes before trying to light it again. If gas has built up, that will give it time to dissipate.
  • When in use, keep your grill at least five feet away from flammable structures. That way, if there is a fire, it’s less likely to spread to surrounding buildings.
  • Always follow the instructions on your grill or propane tank — they’re always printed right on the side.
  • Since propane expands in extreme heat, be sure to keep tanks out of your car.
  • Be sure to check for leaks every time you change the tank, or if it’s been awhile since you last used your grill.
  • If you smell gas, or if your tank runs out after only a few uses, administer the soapy water test to the valve base and tank seams.


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