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Safety Tips That Will Earn Barbecuers a 'Well Done'

Putting common sense on menu is best way to avoid grill burns and accidents, experts say

SATUDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- Safety is one of the most important ingredients for a successful barbecue season.

"Over-feeding your charcoal fire with starter fluid that then flares up is a common mistake people make," Dr. Brent King, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, said in a university news release.

Burns are the most common type of barbecue-related injury, King said. And common sense is the best way to prevent them, said Lon Babcock, a board member of the International Barbeque Cookers Association and a founder of the Texas Gulf Coast Barbeque Association.

He offered the following safety tips:

  • Use a charcoal starter chimney or tube, which starts a charcoal fire by burning paper rather than lighter fluid.
  • Don't spray charcoal lighter fluid on an open flame or hot coals.
  • Avoid big fires. Burn just enough fuel to cook the food.
  • Place the grill away from the house.
  • Use hot pads or insulated gloves when touching hot metal.
  • Don't drink alcohol while cooking on an outdoor grill. "Finish the cooking before drinking," Babcock said. "It's like drinking and driving -- your decision-making gets real slow."

When using propane barbecues, always make sure that the propane tank is attached correctly to prevent leaks at connection points, advised Robert Emery, assistant vice president for safety, health, environment and risk management at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Other tips for safe barbecuing with propane include:

  • Follow all of the manufacturer's instructions and keep written materials and manuals in an accessible location.
  • When the barbecue isn't being used, make sure all burners are turned off and the valve cylinder is closed.
  • Keep the barbecue covered when not in use. Make sure it's turned off and cool before being covered.
  • Always use and store propane cylinders outdoors and in an upright position. When filling or exchanging the cylinder, have the supplier check for dents, damage, rust and leaks.
  • Before lighting a propane barbecue, use a leak detection solution to check all connections for tightness.
  • If there's an uncontrollable release of propane or a fire, call the fire department immediately and move all people and pets away from the barbecue.
  • Don't smoke while handling the propane cylinder.
  • Don't expose the propane cylinder to high temperatures in storage or when transporting it.

More information

The New York City Fire Department offers barbecue safety tips.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, news release, March 2009

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