While the great Aussie barbecue remains a popular trait of our national culture, there are health risks you need to be aware of. By taking a few safety precautions, you can continue to enjoy a sizzle year-round.
The invisible killer
Carbon monoxide gas is an odourless, colourless fume that can cause serious illness and even death. Widely used to fuel gas-injected barbecues, there have been numerous instances (particularly in warmer months) of gas bottle explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning due to incorrect or improper use.
The legal impact of a bad barbecue
Householders owe a duty of care to their visitors and are directly liable in negligence for any damage or harm caused by reasonably foreseeable risks (occupier’s liability).
This would apply even if cooking on a knowingly dodgy barbecue was delegated to another person.
When in a local or national park, barbecue users owe a responsibility to abide by the rules of the park relating to the use of barbecue. This may include using only the provided barbecue facilities or no coal barbecues, for example. Failure to abide by these rules can result in fines.
How to prevent harm
Carbon monoxide can be used safely provided you take a few sensible precautions. These include:
- Barbecuing outdoors: It may seem like common sense, but some desperate BBQ lovers have got into trouble trying to bring their setup inside. Indoor barbecues are a common cause for carbon monoxide poisoning due to the inadequate ventilation.
- Using a gas bottle no older than 10 years: If a gas bottle has not been tested after 10 years it’s a no-go; swap it for a new one.
- Turning off the gas: If you’re forgetful, enlist your partner or mate to remind you to turn off the bottle once the barbecue is done. Or, if you want to be extra careful, set a reminder in your phone.
- Checking for leaks: A simple way to check that there’s no gas leaking from the barbecue is to pour some soapy water over the connections. If it bubbles, you’ve got a leaking bottle.
- Using the right gas: LPG is different to Autogas used at service station pumps. By using the right gas, you’ll guard against injury.
- Having a clearance: An area of good clear space around a barbecue will make cooking on one much safer.
- Avoiding windy weather: Wind can cause a flame to go out and cause gas to leak. So make sure you’re not having a barbecue on a very windy day, as the risk of a gas leak rises.
- Storing gas bottles correctly: Store your unused gas bottles upright in a cool, dry place – not in the back of your car.