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10 potential Dangers of the Outdoor BBQ

Everything’s better in the warmth of summertime, especially cooking. It’s so special that outdoor grilling has become a national pastime in its own right. More and more people are moving their kitchens outdoors with full bars, countertops and barbecue stations. Yet before anyone starts squeezing the lighter fluid can or pumping up the gas, it’s important to recognize some of the potential dangers of an outdoor BBQ.

  1. Burn hazard. An obvious one. A good way to prevent frequent burns is to use long-handled grilling utensils and keep the grill shut and/or off limits while in use and while cooling after use.
  2. Fire hazard. An open flame is an open invitation to a fire. Fire craves oxygen, but needs fuel to expand. Let’s not give it any more than needed to keep the hamburgers sizzling. Possible sources or providers of unwanted fuel are wind, falling leaves, and combustible materials in the vicinity, which leads to potential danger number…
  3. Lack of clearance. It’s important to keep the grill clear of any open windows or doors and combustible materials. Many ordinances regulate the location of outdoor fire or BBQ pits for this very reason. Typically, a pit or grill should be at least three feet from any combustible wall, should NOT be used on balconies, and grills (especially of the gas variety) should be well clear of windows, doors, AC intakes and other openings.
  4. Gas leaks. Gas valves left open or faulty igniters can lead to a build up of gas which, when finally lit, can cause fire and severe burns. Propane is an odorless gas, hence the added rotten egg smell to warn you when it begins to build up. Always double-check the gas valve.
  5. Wind. Strong winds not only make lighting a charcoal grill frustrating, they make it downright dangerous. Once the grill or fire pit is lit, strong winds can blow flames or sparks into nearby trees and walls—another reason for plenty of clearance.
  6. Children. Kids are unlikely to have BBQ safety on their minds. When the cousins or friends are over, the patio transforms into a mythical battlefield fantasy land. So the reality of BBQ station dangers must be tended to by the adults in the area. Keep the station OFF LIMITS until well after meal time.
  7. Negligence. That word comes with heavy connotations, but it’s all too easy in a grill-party atmosphere to lose track of the task at hand. Anyone can make the mistake of walking away from the grill to have a conversation, or get a drink, etc. An unattended grill increases the odds and level of severity for any one of the dangers listed here, especially those concerning children.
  8. In the line of fire. While the grill is hot, there’s often a game of pick-up football, soccer or any number of other backyard sports going on. That leaves the grill in the line of fire, which can result in a tipped grill, burn, or worse. Keep an eye open for that touchdown pass gone awry.
  9. Trees and falling leaves. What catches fire more easily than the wall right behind it? The trees looming above it. Make sure branches are trimmed back (factoring in the wind as well) to prevent falling twigs, leaves, pine cones, etc.
  10. Falling Food. The last danger isn’t truly a danger, but if you’re not careful swinging about those long handled utensils you might knock a bratwurst onto the ground or worse; walk away for a bit and overcook them. And nobody wants that!

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