Barbecue Safety Tips - Identifying Hazards and Risks of the BBQ

Everyone loves a barbecue but few people are aware the hazards and dangers of the humble backyard BBQ and how to avoid them.

The main safety risk is with the LPG cylinder and the fitting as compressed gas can be very dangerous and must be handled with care.

The other dangers are fire, food safety and the hazards associated with keeping the barbecue clean.

Surprisingly the latest hazard is caused by wire bristles shed by brushes used to clean barbecues can stick to the grill surface BBQ, get into the food and be ingested and get caught in the intestines, requiring surgery.

This article reviews all the safety hazards and risks of barbecuing and provides tips on hope to avoid and manage them.

Time to Run!
Time to Run! . Source: Public Domain

Be warned of the dangers of wire barbecue cleaning brush bristles

Several cases have been reported recently of people requiring surgery to remove wire bristles shed from barbecue-cleaning brushes they had accidentally swallowed while eating food cooked on a grill. The metal bristles were apparently lost from the brush and became lodged somewhere on the grill surface. The bristles were transferred to steaks and burgers and ingested with the food.

The patients reported to hospital with severe neck or abdominal pains and trouble swallowing after eating meat grilled on barbecues. In the emergency section of the hospital, imaging tests detected small wire bristles lodged in various parts of their bodies Investigations have shown that the wire bristled came from wire brushes used to clean the grills.

None of the cases so far reported were fatal, but many patients required various medical interventions to remove the bristles from their throat, necks and upper intestine. In other cases wire bristles have perforated the lower intestinal wall and have had to be removed by surgery, colonoscopy and other procedures

People should take various precautions to avoid the hazard of stray wire bristles. This includes throwing out old worn metal brushes, and finding other ways to clean the grates and grills. There are various nylon and other plastic brushes that may be used as a substitute. Stray bristles from these will burn and are generally benign if ingested.

If grills are cleaned with a wire brush, very careful inspection of the grill is required before cooking on it. Choose brushes with shiny light colored bristles that are easier to find on the grill. Always wipe down the grill carefully to dislodge and stray bristles.

Chemical cleaning agents should also be carefully washed off as they can be hazardous as well.

Other Barbecue Hazards

Fire Hazards with Barbecues

Every year barbecue grills and smokers trigger hundreds and thousands of blazes, hundreds of wounds, dozens of killings and many millions of dollars in damage. Cylinders of compressed gas are one of the most dangerous domestic items imaginable - far more dangerous than gasoline if the gas containers explode!

Everyone operating a barbecue needs to understand how to switch off fuel supplies, quench or smother blazes and call the fire department. The risks and hazards should not be underestimated.

Some precautions:

Smoke Hazards when Barbecuing

Smoke gets in your hair, eyes, clothes and lungs and is a health hazard. Smoke from barbecues, especially those that are not functioning properly can contain carbon monoxide, carcinogens and various other dangerous substances. Cancer causing substances can be released when grease burns. As much as possible you should avoid inhaling the smoke and ensure that any smoke produced can be vented away from people.

Dangers cause by Grease Build-up in Barbecues

Flare-ups due to grease build-up can be more than a nuisance and ruin the food, they can start a fire. Grease collects in your grill can builds up over time it its not removed regularly. It is important to keep your grill clean so that your food is not tainted and there are no safety risks. So no matter what type of barbecue you use, you need to stop the grease building up.

Precautions When Handling LPG Cylinders

Food Handling Tips for Barbecues

  1. Always wash your hands after handling raw poultry and meats.

  2. Wash and dry cutting boards in between prepping raw food items to prevent contamination.

  3. Never use the same serving utensils or plates for raw and cooked food!

  4. In hot weather above 90°F, do not let food sit out for more than 1 hour.

  5. Discard food left out more than 2 hours!

  6. Keep cold foods cold below 40°F, and hot food hot above 140°F (never between 40-140°F).

  7. Refrigerate leftover perishable foods within 2 hours below 40°F, discard beyond that time.

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BBQ Safety Tips for Propane and Charcoal Barbecues
BBQ Safety Tips for Propane and Charcoal Barbecues. Source: Public Domain
Always close the lid before lighting a gas barbecue to avoid gas build-up and risk of explosions
Always close the lid before lighting a gas barbecue to avoid gas build-up and risk of explosions. Source: Public Domain
More barbecue safety tips
More barbecue safety tips. Source: Public Domain
Flames fuelled by fat can quickly get out of hand. A fire blanket is a great safety tip
Flames fuelled by fat can quickly get out of hand. A fire blanket is a great safety tip Source: Public Domain
Flames are a real danger - turn off the gas and close the lid to let the flames die out
Flames are a real danger - turn off the gas and close the lid to let the flames die out. Source: Public Domain