Barbecues and BBQ Safety
When the weather is pleasant, there is no better way to spend time with your friends and family than hosting a barbecue. Whether you will be caravanning, camping, or simply firing up your barbecue in your backyard, you’ll be able to enjoy a delicious meal prepared in the great outdoors. Unfortunately, many injuries involving barbecues and outdoor cooking occur each year, but by keeping the following tips in mind, you’ll be prepared to enjoy your barbecue safely.
Stay Safe Whilst Barbecuing
The next time you barbecue, ensure a safe and enjoyable experience by keeping the following tips in mind:
- Always keep your BBQ in good working order, and never use it if you suspect a problem.
- Only use a BBQ on a flat location away from trees, shrubs, and structures.
- Keep children and pets away from cooking areas, and never leave your BBQ unattended.
- Always have a bucket of sand or water available in the event of a fire emergency.
- Never move a BBQ until it is completely cool.
In addition to these general BBQ safety tips, there are additional guidelines depending on the specific type of BBQ that you are using.
- Only light your barbecue using cold coals with recognised fire starter or lighter. Only use the minimum necessary, and avoid the use of petrol.
- Use enough charcoal to cover up the barbecue base to a depth of 2 inches (or about 50 mm).
- Avoid putting hot ashes directly into the dustbin—this is a potential fire hazard.
- Before you change the gas barbecue cylinder, make sure the tap has been turned off.
- Always change your barbecue cylinders in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors.
- When finished cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before you turn off the BBQ controls in order to use up any residual gas left in the pipe.
- If you suspect a leak, brush soapy water along the joints and look for bubbles.
Caravan Safety Tips
Considering the small size of a caravan, it is easy to see why fire risks are amplified at these locations. To stay safe, you’ll need to have a smoke detector installed and take some important precautions:
- Once you arrive at a caravan site, identify the firefighting resources available.
- Keep a fire extinguisher near the caravan exit door.
- Ensure all members of your party can operate the doors and escape windows.
- Keep gas barbecue cylinders outside of the caravan unless your space has a special ventilated compartment.
Carbon Monoxide Dangers
Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when a fuel such as charcoal, gas or petrol burns incompletely. This could happenwhen an appliance isn’t working properly or could happen as part of its normal function. Barbecues, for example, produce carbon monoxide even when they are functioning normally.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas and is poisonous. When highly concentrated it can kill swiftly. In smaller concentrations CO poisoning can give symptoms similar to flu or food poisoning.
- Never take a barbecue inside a tent, awning, caravan or motorhome. Even when cooling a barbecue can give off plenty of poisonous carbon monoxide (CO), which can kill.
- Never use a fuel-burning appliance as a heater for your tent or awning. Kerosene and gas heaters – unless they are permanently fitted in a caravan or motorhome – should only be used outside, never inside. Stoves and barbecues are designed for cooking not space heating.
- Never operate a gas, petrol or diesel-powered generator inside of your caravan, motorhome, tent or awning.
- Never cook inside your tent or awning.
- Consider purchasing a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, provided it is suitable for the condition you intend to use it, check with the supplier/manufacturer, though it should never be used as an alternative to the precautions above.
- Always have gas appliances in your caravan or motorhome serviced regularly.
Spotting the danger signs:
You cannot smell, taste or see carbon monoxide but it can kill quickly and without warning. The early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning can present symptoms similar to food poisoning or flu, though without a high temperature.
- Symptoms to look out for include: Headaches; dizziness; feeling sick; Fatigue and confusion; stomach pains or shortness of breath.
- Higher concentrations can present more severe symptoms:Symptoms appear similar to intoxication; vertigo, the sensation that everything is spinning; loss of coordination; shortness of breath and increased heart beat rate; seizures or unconsciousness leading to death. But the best advice is to avoid any chance of being poisoned in the first place.
Camping Safety Tips
Camping is one of the most popular places to use a barbecue, but safety is a major concern. Each year, many people experience fire-related injuries whilst camping and attempting to operate their barbecue, but by following some safety guidelines, you can keep yourself safe:
- Keep barbecues and other cookers away from the entrance of your tent.
- Ensure that your cooker is stable and won’t be knocked over by drafts, pets, or running children.
- Never use liquid fuel appliances, if avoidable.
- Ensure that disposable gas barbecue cylinders are completely empty before changing them.
Building a Fire Safely
If you will be building an open fire at your campsite, keep the following tips in mind:
- Ensure proper distance (10 meters at minimum) between your tent and the fire or barbecue. More room may be required in windy conditions.
- Never build a fire or use a BBQ on peat soil.
- Clear away brush, leaves, and grass.
- Create a fire stack that will collapse inward when burning.
- Never leave a fire unattended, and be wary of sparks or flying embers.
- Properly extinguish a fire before leaving or going to bed for the evening.
Other Camping Tips
Barbecues aren’t the only hazard for which you need to be concerned with camping. These tips can help you avoid injury on your next outdoor excursion:
- Determine where the nearest emergency telephone or fire point are located.
- Never leave barbecues or campfires unattended, especially if you have children or pets with you.
- Clear away glasses and bottles from your campsite after you barbecue—they could magnify the sun’s rays and cause a fire.
- Space tents at least 6 meters (or 18 feet) apart.
- Use battery-powered lighting inside or near your tent—never use candles.
- Don’t smoke, especially inside a tent.
- Keep all cooking and barbecue equipment away from tents.
Using a BBQ grill is an activity that your entire family can enjoy. By making safety a priority, you’ll get the most enjoyment out of your barbecue.