One of the most popular American past-times during the warmer months is grilling. Friends and family come over, and everyone’s ready for good laughs and good food.
While “grilling season” is typically marked by the Memorial Day weekend, did you know that the number of grill fires usually peak in July?
Yep, according to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), about 18% of grill fires happen in July with several warmer months trailing behind:
- June comes in second at 15%
- May comes in third at 13%
- August comes in fourth at 12%
However, the increase in grilling comes with an increase in danger. The NFPA also found that “between 2014-2018, an average of 19,700 patients per year” visited emergency rooms due to grill-related injuries, about half of them being “thermal burns.”
To help you and guests avoid grill-related hazards and injuries, we’ve rounded up ten grill safety tips that are a must-read:
1. Use Any Outdoor Grills Outdoors
That includes even the small, portable charcoal grills that can be set on a table outside — don’t bring those indoors. Small amounts of carbon monoxide, which is a colorless and odorless gas, can cause poisoning. Gas grills also put off carbon monoxide and are dangerous to use indoors. If you want to grill indoors, use a cast iron grilling skillet instead.
2. Keep Your Grill Away From Hanging Branches
While grilling underneath that nice shade tree out back seems just right, you might actually be setting yourself up for trouble. Instead, choose an open spot in your back or front yard that’s clear of any hanging branches. Also, don’t grill too close to your home, as some materials may be flammable. Between 2014 and 2018, the NFPA found that an average of 8,900 home fires were gas-grill related.
3. Be Sure to Clean the Grill and Grates
Having those extra bits of burned residue on your grill grates aren’t going to do you much good. Once you’re finished, take a grill brush and knock those bits off. If you notice any rust, you should also clean that off as well. For charcoal grills, once the coals have cooled, you can dispose of them in a metal container.
4. Check for Gas Leaks
After you’ve used the same propane tank and hose for so long, you may discover that it’s time for replacement. One way to check for gas leaks is to take some soapy water and spray onto the gas hose and valve. Then, turn on the gas and see if any bubbles form. If so, it’s time to replace any defective parts. One additional issue you might run into with a propane tank is hearing knocking noises. If this happens, it might be time to replace the gas valve or the entire tank as there’s an uneven amount of gas and air inside the tank.
5. Make Sure the Grill is on a Level Surface
If your yard has some high and low spots, you’ll want to try to find a level place for grilling. If you have a concrete pad you can grill there or any area where you can stabilize the grill’s legs. Mainly, you’ll want to be sure that the grill is as level as possible to prevent tipping and starting a fire.
6. Beware of Gas Build-Up
When using outdoor gas burners, always shut off the tank valve before turning off the burners. This is to prevent the build-up of gas in the hose. Similarly, before lighting a gas grill, you should always open the lid first to prevent gas build-up (and potentially having a really bad day).
7. Wash Your Hands to Prevent Cross Contamination
Nobody wants Salmonella to break up the fun—be sure to wash your hands between prepping any meat and handling other foods. This will help to prevent cross-contamination. Also, wash your hands before grabbing that seasoning.
8. Don’t Leave Your Grill Unattended
It’s inevitable that the little ones are going to play, but keep an eye out and tell them to stay away from the grill, even once the food is done. Child-related burns are common with the CDC reporting more than 300 children being treated for “burn-related injuries” every day. Pets also need to be kept away from the grill, no matter how tempting the food smells.
9. Check the Food's Temperature Before Serving
One health safety tip to keep in mind is to make sure any meats are cooked to the right temperatures before serving. There are a number of food thermometers on the market that can help. While experience may give you a vague idea of when food is ready, it’s always better to be sure.
10. Be Prepared Just In Case of a Fire
Have a fire extinguisher, salt, or baking soda ready just in case a fire breaks out. If it’s a grease fire, don’t throw water on the flames as that’ll only stir the fire up. The salt or baking soda can help to smother the flames.
Remember that no matter how much experience you have with grilling, there are always hazards to be on the lookout for. On average, more than 5,000 grill fires happen in the U.S. each year, leading to about “100 injuries and 10 fatalities” (Insurance Information Institute). Your preparedness and actions can make the difference as you enjoy “grilling season”.
If you’d like to learn more about grill safety, check out these additional resources:
- “Home Grill Fires” – NFPA
- “Summer season: peak time for grilling fires” – NFPA
- “How to Grill Safely” – CDC
- “10 Tips for Safe Summer Barbecues: Dos and Don’ts That Will Keep You From Becoming a Statistic” – ABC News
- “Grilling safety and insurance” – Insurance Information Institute