Following safety procedures when grilling can reduce injury and save lives
The state Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is providing safety tips to follow when using gas or charcoal grills. Memorial Day will mark the beginning of summer for many New Yorkers and, with it, the start of the grilling season. Following proper safety procedures when grilling can help reduce injury and save lives.
“Memorial Day is just around the corner, marking the beginning of summer when New Yorkers all across the State begin to gather, grill and enjoy the warmer weather with their friends and families,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “But cookout fun can quickly turn dangerous if you don’t follow the proper safety procedures when grilling. Simple steps such as a frequent cleaning of the grill and keeping a fire extinguisher nearby can help ensure your gatherings remain safe and memorable all summer long.”
“The beginning of summer is a time when family and friends gather to enjoy beautiful weather and delicious foods on the grill,” Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “Taking simple precautions such as cleaning the grill and keeping a fire extinguisher in close proximity will keep everyone safe which in turn will make the summer relaxing, memorable, and fun.”
According to statistics from fire departments around the United States, there are about 10,600 home grill fires reported annually, including around 4,900 fires per year in or on structures. Approximately 100 deaths due to grill fire injuries are reported annually, and about $135 million in direct property damage is reported per year. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration statistics also reflect that almost half of home grill fires happen between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and the majority of home grill fires happen between May and August, the summer months when grills are used more often. Additionally, 79% of all grill fires are from gas grills.
Gas and charcoal grills also present a risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning that could result in injury or death. Of the thousands of grill-related injuries reported in hospital emergency departments each year, many are related to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Before lighting the grill do a safety check.
- Have a fire extinguisher nearby and easily accessible in case of a fire.
- Inspect the hoses on a gas grill for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing and that all connections are secure. Replace if necessary.
- Check for propane gas leaks. Open the gas supply valve fully and apply a soapy solution with a brush at the connection point. If bubbles appear, there is a leak. Try tightening the tank connection. If that does not stop the leak, close the gas valve and have the grill repaired by a qualified professional.
- Make sure the grill is clean. Regularly cleaning the grill, as described in the owner’s manual, and cleaning the grease trap, will reduce the risk of flare-ups and grease fires.
- Make sure the grill is stable and on a level, flat surface. Be sure it doesn’t rock or tip when you open and close the lid. If your grill isn’t set on concrete or pavers, consider investing in a grill mat.
- Always start a gas grill with the lid open. Keeping the lip open while starting the grill allows excess gas to escape. If the lid is closed, the gas can pool under the lid and, when opened, combust suddenly creating a fireball.
- Light charcoal in a charcoal chimney. A charcoal chimney is a safer way of starting a charcoal grill since it doesn’t involve the use of accelerants like lighter fluid.
- Only use grills outside in a well-ventilated area. Never use a grill indoors, in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, next to your home or under a surface that will burn.
Pay close attention once the grill is lit.
- Never leave a grill unattended. If a flare-up occurs, turn off the gas or spread out the coals to lower the temperature.
- Watch for grease fires. If a grease fire occurs, turn off the gas and use baking soda and/or a fire extinguisher to put out the fire.
- Keep children away from the grill area. The outside surface of a grill can get hot and cause severe burns.
Store your grill and fuel tanks safely.
- Leave charcoal grills outside. Since charcoal produces CO fumes until the charcoal is completely extinguished, do not store a grill indoors with freshly used coals.
- Use caution when storing liquid propane (LP) gas containers. Always keep containers upright. Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill. Never store a full container indoors.
- Transport LP gas containers carefully. Consumers should transport the container in a secure, upright position and never keep a filled container in a hot car or trunk. Heat may increase the gas pressure, causing the relief valve to open and allowing gas to escape.
Keep food safety in mind.
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator — never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. If you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding raw meat, poultry or seafood. Don’t reuse marinade.
- Meat must be cooked to the proper temperature. Germs, such as E. coli and salmonella, can be present in undercooked meats, such as hamburger and chicken. Always check the temperature with a meat thermometer.
- Don’t reuse platters or utensils. Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood allows bacteria from the raw food to spread to the cooked food. Instead, have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.
- Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Keep meat, poultry, seafood, salads and other cold foods refrigerated until they’re about to be cooked or served. If grilled food is finished cooking but won’t be served right away, keep it hot until served. To prevent bacteria growth, cold food should be kept at 40 °F or below, and hot food should be kept at 140 °F or higher.
- Refrigerate any leftovers immediately. Never leave food at room temperature for more than two hours, or only one hour if the temperature is above 90 °F.
About the state Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 800.697.1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.
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