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While grilling is a beloved summer tradition, outdoor cooking poses a significant safety risk to the hosts and guests both. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that grills were responsible for 10,200 home fires between 2014 and 2018, resulting in 19,700 injuries and 9,500 thermal burns.

Those participating in outdoor cooking events like BBQs or crawfish boils must understand the safety risks posed by outdoor grilling. Read on to explore common dangers and learn how to avoid accidents by taking proper safety precautions when hosting or attending a summer BBQ.

Potential Dangers of Outdoor Grilling

Knowing the potential health risks associated with outdoor cookouts can help you prepare accordingly. The most common dangers of outdoor grilling include the following:

Structure fires

Every year, fire departments across the United States respond to roughly 5,700 residential barbeque fires, resulting in over $37 million in damages annually. NFPA statistics show that grill fires originating on balconies or open porches are responsible for 44% of property damage from cookout fires across the nation.

These fires can destroy structures like homes, RVs, and sheds. They also increase the likelihood of people caught near the fire getting injured.

Burn injuries

Burn injuries can occur by coming into contact with the hot surface of the grill. Children may run into a grill while playing, and adults may trip over uneven boards or concrete and end up touching a grill by accident. Another way people suffer burns is when hot liquids, such as oils or fats, spill off the grill’s surface. Additionally, burns can occur if clothing or other materials catch on fire from the heat of the grill.

A third-degree burn can destroy the skin and, if severe enough, can damage underlying tissues. organs, and even bones. Disfigurement, damaged nerve function, and limited mobility can result from penetrating burns.


A build-up of flammable gas most often causes grill explosions in the grill’s enclosed cooking space. When a spark ignites the gas, the resulting explosion can cause significant damage to the grill and nearby property. In some cases, people sustain injuries from flying debris or fire.

Besides physical injuries and burns, grill explosions can cause significant property damage. The force of the blast can easily break windows, and the accompanying fire can quickly spread to nearby buildings.

Rules for Safe Outdoor Grilling

Whether attending or hosting an outdoor grilling event, you can take safety precautions to reduce the risk of injury to the surrounding property and people. These precautions include cooking on safe surfaces, keeping flammables away from the grill, and never leaving the grill unattended.

Cook on safe surfaces

Keep your grill off surfaces like wooden decks or grass, especially brown, dry grass. These materials are more likely to catch fire and burn quickly, increasing property damage and injury risk.

Avoid grilling near wooden fences, outdoor furniture, patio umbrellas, trees, and walkways to reduce the risk of fire and injury. Instead, set your grill up on asphalt or concrete surfaces without any overhangs for a safe cookout.

Keep a working fire extinguisher nearby in case of a fire to end an emergency quickly before it puts your guests and home at risk.

Keep dangerous materials away from the grilling area

Always keep highly flammable materials like extra charcoal starter fluid away from the grilling area when you are not actively using it. If you’re using a charcoal grill, let the coals cool completely before disposing of them. Use a metal container to place the cooled coals in and add water as an extra precaution if you feel some of the coals may still pose a fire risk.

Wear appropriate clothes

While operating the grill, being mindful of what you’re wearing. Loose-fitting clothes can easily catch fire, so opting for form-fitting items made from natural fibers like cotton is best. It’s also a good idea to avoid wearing long sleeves or flowing skirts, as they can also be potential fire hazards.

Although you might want to wear sandals or flip-flops while grilling, it’s much safer to wear closed-toe shoes in case any hot coals or grease falls out. Closed-toe shoes will also reduce the risk of tripping and hurting yourself on the hot cooking surface.

Never leave the grill unattended

If you must step away for a minute, ask someone with experience operating a grill to stand in your place. Don’t ask a child or a person without the proper knowledge to look after the grill. It is always preferable to extinguish the fire first, even if you’ll only be gone for a few minutes.

Maintain your grill

The key to a pleasant and safe cookout is a well-maintained grill. Not only does regular cleaning help to prevent rust and corrosion, but it also helps reduce the risk of fires.

The NFPA reports that 29% of home grill fires are due to poorly cleaned grills, underlining the importance of keeping them free of fat, food remnants, and other debris that can easily catch fire.

Keeping your grill in top condition includes cleaning the grill grates after each use. A wire brush can help remove any build-up of grease or food. Inspect your grill’s hose and regulator for any wear or damage. If you notice any cracks or leaks, replace the parts immediately or at least make a note to change them before the next use.

Finally, clean the inside of the grill with soapy water regularly. This action helps remove any grease or fat accumulation that may contribute to a fire.

Dealing With the Aftermath of a Fire

It only takes poor grill maintenance or irresponsible behavior on the part of a grill owner/operator to cause injuries and potentially life-threatening situations.

Treating severe burns can require expensive pain medication, surgery, and skin grafts. Costly medical bills and painful, disfiguring burns can also cause victims to lose their income and become pessimistic about their future.

If you’ve suffered burns or other injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact the Louisiana fire and burn injury lawyers at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers for a free consultation regarding your case.

Disclaimer: This content has been reviewed by Chad Lederman, Director of Legal Operations at our New Orleans office.

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