Grilling Safety: Tips to Prevent Injuries


Number of fires caused by grills

Although grilling can be a fun summer activity, care should be taken to avoid personal injury, as well as property damage and destruction. According to the National Fire Protection Association, an annual average of 10,600 household fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues resulted in nearly a dozen deaths, 160 injuries and approximately $150 million in direct property damage. These statistics are due to a number of factors, including leaving the equipment unattended, among others. (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Household grill fires by main factors contributing to ignition 2014-2018


To note. This graph was produced by M. Ahrens in 2020, depicting the common drivers of fires.

The following preventive actions are recommended to reduce the risk of fire.

Grill location and use:

  • Only use propane and charcoal grills outdoors and locate the grill at least three feet from the house, deck railings and away from overhanging leaves and branches.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill.
  • Pay particular attention to loose clothing and dangling jewelry which may present a hazard.

Propane Grills:

Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year – you can do this by applying soap and water to the hose and checking for bubbles . If there are bubbles or the smell of propane and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop or you smell gas while cooking, do not attempt to move the grill, move away immediately and call 911 (Ahrens, 2020).

If you find that there are no gas leaks before lighting the grill, open the lid and check for hidden nests, hives or animals. It is recommended that you clean the grill thoroughly to remove any excess grease before and after use. While cooking, remember never to leave the grill unattended. When you’re done, clean the grill after each use to remove grease and grease that can start a fire (FEMA). Since propane gas is heavier than air, it will sink lower to the ground and can enter your home through doors, windows and dryer vents. Never store the bottle near these entry points. Also, make sure the propane tank is stored upright on a flat surface so it cannot roll or tip over.

Charcoal grills:

Use only starter fluid designed for charcoal. After cooking, make sure the charcoal and ashes are totally cooled with the lid closed for 48 hours. For a faster process, douse the embers with water. After 48 hours, place the cooled ashes in a metal container or wrap them in aluminum foil before putting them in the trash (Lam, 2020).

Food safety in grills:

In addition to the dangers of sustaining physical injury from improper outdoor cooking, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that there are approximately 48 million cases of food poisoning each year, of which grilling plays a significant role. . It is important to pay close attention to the temperature of your food before, during and after preparation.

  • Store meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator until ready to grill. When transporting, keep food below 40°F in an insulated cooler.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure the meat is cooked enough to kill germs. (see Figure 2 for minimum safe internal temperatures).
  • When using a barbecue smoker, monitor the air temperature inside the smoker to ensure that the heat remains between 225°F and 300°F throughout the cooking process. This will ensure that the meat is fully cooked.

Figure 2. Correct temperature for grilling different types of meat

To note. This chart was produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2020, to show the correct temperature for cooking meat to ensure food safety.

145°F Whole cuts of beef, pork or lamb (let stand 3 minutes before serving)
145°F Fish (whole or fillet)
160°F Hamburgers, sausages and other ground beef, pork or lamb
165°F Chicken, turkey and other poultry

References:

Ahrens, M. (2020, May). Household Grill Fires – NFPA. Accessed July 7, 2022.

Centers for Control and Prevention of Disasters. Food safety. Accessed July 7, 2022.

FEMA. Grill Fire Safety Pamphlet – US Fire Administration. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from

Lam, D. (2021, July 2). Backyard Grilling Seems Safe, Until It’s Not. NPR. Accessed July 7, 2022,

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