Keep calm, grill on

Safe grilling tips as your summer heats up

Nothing makes for a better weekend get-together than grilling out with your favorite foods. But before you light up the grill, make sure you have everyone’s safety in mind.

“According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), three out of five households own a gas grill or outdoor cooking device,” said Andrew Rochet, M.D., medical director, Emergency Services, Norton Brownsboro Hospital. “And to go along with the use of the grill, more than 18,000 injuries have been attributed to grilling or outdoor cooking.”

Check out these grilling safety tips to help you prepare for your summer festivities.

Before you grill

“In many cases, failure to clean the grill is the leading factor contributing to fire or accidents,” said Erika Janes, R.N., safety coordinator, Office of Child Advocacy at Norton Children’s Hospital. “It is important to always keep your grill clean to avoid odors and potential fires that can cause injury.”

A few other tips to consider before firing up the grill:

  • Never line the bottom of the grill with foil. This prevents grease from passing into the grease drain, which increases the risk of it catching on fire.
  • Placement is key. The grill should always be used outdoors and there should be a 3-foot safety zone around it.

“Your guests, and especially children, should be kept away from the grill while it is in use and for several hours afterward, since the heat will remain intense,” Dr. Rochet said. “So when setting up your grill, be sure it is away from high-traffic areas and take authority to ask others to keep their children and pets away.”

Properly turning the gas grill on and off

  • On: To prevent any buildup of gas, open the lid before lighting the grill, which allows it to be exposed to air. Turn on the propane tank, then turn on the knobs of the grill burners. If you have an ignition button, turn it on last and do not leave it unattended. If the grill does not ignite at first, wait at least five minutes to let the gas dissipate before trying again.
  • Off: To keep excess gas from leaking out, first turn off the gas tank. Then turn off the grill burners. Remember, just because the grill is off does not mean it isn’t hot. If you keep your grill covered, do not replace the cover or touch the grill until it has cooled completely.

Tips for charcoal grills

  • Thoroughly clean out the grill, removing ash and grease.
  • Always use the proper amount of charcoal for how much food you’re cooking. Don’t just pour in the entire bag.
  • When using lighter fluid, apply it evenly throughout the coals. Never add lighter fluid to burning coals. Even if there is no flame, the heat will vaporize the lighter fluid and can cause a serious flare-up if the vapor encounters a flame.

If an accident happens

“Should you get burned, immediately place cool, but not cold, towels over the area and leave it in for 20 minutes or as long as you can tolerate it,” Dr. Rochet said. “The home remedy recommendations of applying butter or wrapping the area are not effective.”

If the area blisters, Dr. Rochet recommends that you do not pop the blister. Just keep it clean and covered so it doesn’t get infected.

If you are concerned about the burn and need help determining if you need to see a physician, Dr. Rochet recommends this rule of thumb, especially for children:

“If the blister is bigger than the child’s hand or is causing intolerable discomfort, then seek medical treatment. If the burn is significant, treatment at the nearest emergency room may be necessary.”

So enjoy your summer grilling festivities with these safety tips in mind.


For minor injuries, including burns, 13 convenient Norton Immediate Care Centers are open daily, including most holidays.


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