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Grilling or Killing?

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06/01/2008 - What comes to mind when thinking about "cooking on the barbie?" For the real "grillers," the debate over charcoal or gas continues even today. If I'm doing the grilling, I prefer the convenience of gas, but I'll eat any of it!

There's another debate that is much more dangerous. That debate involves the argument that because you own a grill, you are the master of it. Stay with me here, I am not attacking your grilling skills.

Gas grills have built-in hazards. Propane cylinders (containing highly flammable compressed propane gas) cannot be stored on wet or moist ground or kept exposed to the weather elements when not in use. Make sure the gas connections are proper and tight to prevent the accumulation of leaking propane.

When using the gas grill, sometimes the starter button fails to spark. You won't know that until after you are standing in front of the grill with the gas ON and repeatedly hitting the starter button, but to no avail. There are reasons why the instruction manual – you know, the book that came with the grill but never got out of the plastic bag – advises to turn off the gas completely and wait five minutes or so before attempting to light it again.

When the propane continues to flow and there is no flame, it accumulates and begins to travel or spread. If you leave the propane on while running back into the house to get the matches, you are in for a huge surprise once you return and strike the match. And it may be a surprise from which you don't recover.

How about those charcoal grills? They don't have gas tanks so they must be safer. Well, they can be safer unless you decide the charcoal is not lighting fast enough and you think it needs help. It amazes me as to how many people I know that start the fire in the grill then proceed to pour (or shoot) lighter fluid from the can directly on to the heated charcoal.

Read the can if you don't believe me. Lighter fluid is extremely flammable. Spraying it onto an already lit fire will cause the flame to catch the fluid and follow it straight back to the can – the one you are holding – and cause it to explode and fully ignite. Your body parts were never made to withstand that kind of abuse, and they won't.

Don't risk losing your life, your quality of life, or your family to such dangerous practices. I have seen the results of these types of actions on bodies. Responding to such calls is not pleasant and recovering from them (if you recover at all) is painful and drastically alters your family life.

This season, commit to not taking shortcuts that can kill but rather, become the master of your grill and enjoy the benefits of the end products with your family. Do it right to ensure you remain safe at home.

Randy DeVaul is an internationally published writer and author with more than 25 years in safety and emergency response services. He has authored three performance-based safety books and is now writing Being Safe At Home: Surviving the Hazards of Living in Your Home. Comments welcome at safetypro@roadrunner.com

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