For many of us, Fourth of July celebrations start with a barbecue grill. Many are powered by a propane gas tank and require special care in handling. Propane is an invisible, but highly flammable gas which can trigger an explosion if it leaks and comes into contact with fire.
When grills are not properly used or maintained or are left unattended, accidents can occur. There are several safety concerns associated with grills, including propane leaks, cooking burns and fires. In the last year, there have also been a few product recalls involving grills.
Propane Gas Leaks and Explosions
Protect your propane gas tank from leaks. Take care when transporting it to your refilling station. Place it in a secure box and return it immediately home after filling it. Have it inspected annually by a qualified professional.
Store the propane gas tank outside your home. Also keep it away from your garage or any deck attached to your home. These areas may seem safe to use because they are not living areas, but according to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than half of all residential grilling fires in the U.S. begin on porches, terraces, exterior balconies and similar areas.
Grilling Burns and Structure Fires
When grilling, the safest solution is to stay outside your home or apartment building, as far away as you can.
This protects your home as well as your guests and young children who are too often victims of grilling burns. According to the National Fire Protection Association, children under age 5 accounted for about one quarter of all thermal burn injuries in 2007. Many of these burns occur when children are curious and touch or bump up against the grill.
If you live in an apartment building or multi-unit dwelling, you may also want to check with your property manager and city and town offices for additional information. Massachusetts state law does permit use of propane grills on first floor porches only, but some cities have gone a step further. For instance, the city of Boston does not permit either propane or charcoal grills above ground floor porches. Grilling on rooftops is not permitted either.
Before heading out to the grill, review the manufacturer’s instructions first. If you no longer have the instructions, check if they are available on the manufacturer’s website.
Use long-handled grilling tools and avoid wearing loose clothing. Work neat and remove grease and fat build-up from the grills.
Finally and most important, never leave the grill unattended. If you need to step away for a minute, finish up your cooking and turn the grill off.
Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission and your manufacturer’s website to see if there have been any recalls involving your grill. When a grill is recalled, you may be asked to return it to the manufacturer or retailer for a refund or be given instructions to replace a part.
In April 2012, more than 87,000 gas grills sold in the U.S. were recalled by One World Technologies, and another 1,400 in Canada. The company offered consumers a replacement regulator after receiving 569 reports its grills were leaking propane gas. The defective grills were sold at Home Depot stores nationwide and Directory Tools Factory Outlet stores from March 2011 through February 2012.
No injuries were reported at the time of the recall.
Another recall came in November 2012, when 37,000 Master Forge Gas Grills sold at Lowe’s Stores were recalled due to fire and burn hazards. In that case, consumers were asked to contact the manufacturer, Guangdong Vanward Electric Co., Ltd., of China, for revised instructions and a warning label that showed how to properly install the hose and regulator.
At the time of the recall, the manufacturer reported two reports of hoses melting and rupturing, but no injuries. The defective product was sold at Lowe’s stores nationwide from November 2011 through May 2012.
There are more than 3,300 natural gas leaks in Boston’s aging underground pipelines, a new Boston University study has found. Six areas had gas levels which exceeded the amount needed to trigger a gas explosion.
Those gas leaks were repaired while no action has been taken on the others, which the state Department of Public Utilities and gas companies described as a small risk for gas explosions. Dorchester had the largest number of gas leaks, 951 breaks over 158 miles of cast-iron gas mains. However, several areas had a greater number of leaks per mile, including East Boston, Jamaica Plain, Brighton, Charlestown and South Boston.
The study into gas leaks and explosion risks was conducted by an associated professor from Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment and a researcher from Duke University. It was recently published in the journal Environmental Pollution and reported on by the Boston Globe.
The two researchers drove all 785 miles of Boston’s streets to test the air for methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas. The two measured for methane levels which exceeded 2 parts per million – the normal amount in the air.
Natural gas is colorless and odorless, but uses the chemical additive mercaptan which emits a distinct rotten eggs odor to signal a leak. Gas leaks can occur in several ways, often when underground pipes crack as they age or in cold weather or when a pipe is struck by construction equipment.
Some people want to hold gas companies more accountable for fixing gas leaks in Massachusetts. A bill sponsored by state Representative Lori Ehrlich of Marlbehead would require a timeline for fixing the most serious leaks. Utilities would be required to notify police and fire of the gas leak locations. The bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives in June and is now before the state Senate.
The Conservation Law Foundation plans to release a report on natural gas leaks soon. An official suggested the state could require timelines for gas companies to repair various grades of leaks and improve accelerated reimbursement rates for gas companies that replace old gas lines.
- Boston riddled with mostly small natural gas leaks, Boston University study finds, Boston Globe.
- Gas leaks graphic, Boston Globe.
- Breakstone, White & Gluck settles wrongful death lawsuit for explosion’s victim’s family for $7.5 million, July 2012.
Thanksgiving dinner is the largest meal of the year for many families, the one that takes the most planning and time to prepare. As you work in the kitchen, remember Thanksgiving is also the nation’s leading day for kitchen fires and when burns and cooking injuries are more likely to occur. The good news is you can prevent most of these accidents and focus on enjoying the day by following a few simple steps below. We have also included safety precautions for deep frying a turkey.
Make sure your smoke detector is working. Test it in advance and do not disable it.
Use a cooking timer. This will help you keep track of when to check the turkey and when other food dishes are finished.
Stay home while cooking. Stay home and check the turkey frequently.
Cooking stovetop. Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking stovetop. If you must leave, turn the stove off.
Keep children away. Keep children at least three feet away from the stove at all times.
Hot food and liquids. Make sure children also stay away from hot food and liquids, which can cause burn injuries. This includes coffee, gravy and the steam and sauce on vegetables – especially when they first come out of the oven or off the stove.
Neat kitchen. Keep clutter to a minimum near the stove. Set aside oven mitts, towels and other utensils. Do not leave sharp knives or utensils out where young children can reach them. Ask guests to put their belongings in another area.
Keep matches, lighters and candles away. Lock matches and utility lighters in cabinets away from children. Also do not use candles if you have young children in the home.
Use a commercial cooking bag. Do not cook your turkey in a brown paper bag from the grocery store. They are unsanitary and may start a fire.
Tips if you are deep frying your turkey:
Read the instructions. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the turkey fryer before each use.
Understand your propane gas burner. Ask your propane gas provider about safe practices to prevent fires and explosions.
Wear safety gear. Wear safety glasses, gloves which stretch to your elbows, a long-sleeved shirt and an apron.
Deep fry your turkey outside. Set up your fryer in an open area, away from your house, garage, decks and other structures.
Select a smaller turkey. Use a turkey that is 12 pounds or less in size.
Do not stuff the turkey. Stuffing the turkey could interfere with even cooking.
Do not use too much oil. Determine the right amount of oil in advance by placing the turkey in the fryer. Fill with water to the top. Remove the turkey and measure the amount of water remaining. Use the same amount of oil. Your fryer may also have a measurement line inside.
Fully thaw the turkey. Burn injuries can occur when any water on the turkey comes in contact with the oil, then boils over or splatters while being cooked. Fully thaw the turkey and dry it off with paper towels before deep frying.
Turn off the fryer before adding the turkey. Warm up the fryer before cooking, then turn it off just before putting the turkey inside. Start cooking again after it is firmly in place.
Thanksgiving Safety, National Fire Protection Association.