June - Safety Tips: Grilling (Cooking Out)
Safety Tips: Grilling (Cooking Out)
It's almost time to start the grills and fight the mosquitoes, if you are a fair weather outdoor chef.
Maybe you are like many of us and cook out in duck hunting gear or other cold weather attire. Regardless, I have a few reminders about spring and summer "cooking out" which may save us a little burn or maybe something more complex.
According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), in 1999, gas and charcoal grills caused 1,500 structure fires and 4,200 outdoor fires in, or on, home properties, resulting in a combined property loss of $29.8 million dollars.
When cooking with charcoal or propane, always cook outdoors where ventilation is plentiful. Cooking in enclosed spaces leads to possible asphyxiation and fire hazards.
SAFETY TIPS FOR CHARCOAL USE
- Keep the grill away from siding, deck rails and out from under eaves and low hanging branches.
- Keep the grill a safe distance from play areas and walking areas.
- Keep children and pets away from the grill area. A "safe zone" should be at least a three foot circumference around the grill.
- We should use long-handled grill tools so the "chef" has plenty of distance between he or she and the heat, smoke and flames.
- Check and clean grill fat collection trays periodically to avoid igniting the old grease.
- If you have a charcoal grill, use a good quality charcoal lighter and store it in a place not accessible to young kids and away from heat.
- Use only charcoal lighter, refrain from using any other flammable liquids.
- Apply starter fluid directly to the coals, then close the container and move away. Light the coals slowly and carefully, avoiding a flame-up.
- After the cooking is finished, continue to watch the grill as it is cooling. You can cool the coals with water, but be careful that it doesn't spatter or steam up causing a possible burn.
PROPANE GRILL SAFETY TIPS
Obviously, many of the tips involved with charcoal hold true with the use of propane and should be practiced as well. First, we should mention that after April 1, 2002 Overfill Prevention Devices (OPD's) were required on all propane cylinders between 4 and 40 lbs capacity. A typical gas grill cylinder holds about 20 pounds of propane. A propane cylinder equipped with the OPD can be identified by a triangular hand-wheel. Some of the earlier model cylinders were made with a round hand-wheel, but "OPD" is stamped on the brass valve body.
After April 1, 2002 propane cylinders not equipped with the OPD must be retrofitted with the device before refilling can occur or properly disposed of and replaced with an OPD-equipped cylinder. An older cylinder can be refitted with an OPD device, but if the cylinder is old, it might be better to replace the whole unit. Some convenience stores have racks with OPD cylinders filled and ready for use. They will trade with you for an extra charge for the OPD. This is just another option for consideration. Besides getting a cylinder that is in compliance, this eliminates the need for the right way of disposal of the old one.
SAFETY TIPS FOR PROPANE USE
Actually, many of the safety tips for charcoal cooking should be practiced for propane grilling as well.
- Check all hoses and connections for leaks each time before starting the grill. A mixture of soap and water applied to the hoses and connections will tell you quickly where and if you have leaks. Obviously, if a leak is present, it should be corrected before you begin cooking.
- After you finish with the grill, check and double check to make sure the valves are off to avoid raw gas escaping.
- Periodically, take out the briquettes and replace. While checking the briquettes, use a fine bristle brush and clean off the burner so that you will continue to get an even flame throughout the burner.
Hopefully, if you review and practice these tips, it will make the season of grilling more enjoyable and reduce the potential for an injury.
CONTAIN THE FLAME; AVOID THE PAIN
SAFETY IS EVERYONE'S RESPONSIBILITY!
Excerpts: NFPA link
Ted Gordon is the Risk Management/Loss Control Manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. His office is located in the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, in Verona, MS. His telephone number is 662-566-2201.