Ask a Safety Officer: six common BBQ dangers

Barbecue safety

Barbecue season is upon us, which means that British Columbians are gearing up to grill. Each year, we receive reports of incidents and injuries resulting from gas barbecues. To remind everyone to grill safely this summer, we asked our safety officers and the British Columbia Office of the Fire Commissioner to put together a list of six common barbecue safety mistakes—and ways to avoid them.

BBQ Mistake #1: Failing to follow manufacturer’s instructions

Buying a new barbecue is exciting. Rushing to fire it up without reading the manufacturer’s operating and installation instructions can result in a serious incident. Avoid incident and injury by carefully reviewing the instructions and following any cleaning and maintenance requirements.

BBQ Mistake #2: Dirty or poorly maintained BBQs

If your barbecue’s been in storage for too long, hoses and burners can become corroded or damaged. Check the burner for any obstructions and make sure the gas supply hose is in good condition. If you spot any cracks or abrasions, have it replaced.

Pro-tip: Once your propane cylinder or gas supply is hooked up, check the gas connections for leaks using a solution of 1/3 dish detergent and 2/3 water. Brush the solution onto the connections with a paint brush and watch for any bubbles to appear, indicating a gas leak. If required, tighten up the connections again and re-test until no bubbles appear. If a leak cannot be stopped, do not attempt to light the grill and call 911 or your local emergency number. Never use matches or lighters to check for leaks.

BBQ Mistake #3: Placing a BBQ near flammable objects

Barbecues should be located on a flat, sturdy, non-combustible surface such as concrete or patio stones. To eliminate the chance of a fire spreading beyond the barbecue, maintain the minimum clearance that is shown on the appliance nameplate. Be sure to allow your barbecue to cool off completely before putting on the cover.

Pro-tip: Summertime is peak season for grilling fires. In 2020, the British Columbia Office of the Fire Commissioner received 46 reports of fires that originated from a barbecue, which resulted in more than $900,000 in damages. This doesn’t include incidents that weren’t reported or when the fire department wasn’t called. The Office of the Fire Commissioner wants you to keep fire and injury prevention top of mind while you’re flipping those burgers. That means never leaving a hot grill unattended, cleaning the grease tray regularly, only grilling outdoors and keeping children and pets at least one metre (three feet) away from the grill area.

BBQ Mistake #4: Failing to have a licensed contractor perform a gas installation

Unlike portable barbecues, built-in barbecues require a gas installation permit. Remember that the installation of gas piping or a built-in barbecue is regulated work and must be done by a licensed contractor. Make sure your contractor is licensed by Technical Safety BC and has pulled the appropriate permits for the work before they get started.

BBQ Mistake #5: Using barbecues in enclosed areas

Barbecuing produces carbon monoxide (CO) which can be deadly. Never use a barbecue in an enclosed or partially enclosed area such as a garage or porch. Keep it in a well-ventilated space, away from any open windows or doors to avoid CO from entering your home.

BBQ Mistake #6 Neglected Propane Cylinders

All propane cylinders must be re-certified every 10 years, or they cannot be refilled. Check the cylinders condition, if it’s dented or rusty, have it examined by your gas supplier before filling. If you’re transporting your propane cylinder, keep it secure, upright and in a well-ventilated space at all times.

Happy grilling! For more barbecue safety tips, visit: gov.bc.ca/FireSafety.

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