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Barbecues are back in action. What about maintenance?

Barbecues are back in action. What about maintenance?

Winnipeg - With the recent warm weather the BBQ season has shifted into high gear. However, many barbecues may not be safe. A recent survey conducted by the Technical Standards and Safety Association of Ontario (TSSA) indicated that only 40% of the public was able to recall the need 'to open the barbecue before lighting' and only 18% knew that it was important to 'clean the venturis'! "The results of this survey mean that we as contractors must raise the level of education to our customers", said Brian Baker, President of Custom Vac Limited.

Gas Barbeque Safety

Cooking in the outdoors while spending leisure time with friends and families is one of the traits that Canadians are known for. "Consumers need to conduct a few simple tasks and hire a qualified technician to service their BBQ", said Baker.

One of the most important items for homeowners to remember is, 'what to do if you smell gas'?

  1. Shut "off" the gas supply
  2. Shut "off" the burner control
  3. Extinguish any open flames
  4. Open grill lid

* If odour continues, immediately contact your gas supplier or fire department.

Barbeques should be tested for gas leaks at least once a month and every time a new cylinder is connected. DO NOT use matches, lighters or flame to check for leaks. Apply a 50/50 soap solution with a small paintbrush to all connections. Expanding bubble(s) will indicate the presence of a leak. Repair all leaks prior to lighting the barbecue. "If homeowners locate a leak on a propane cylinder valve or main gas shut off valve they need to contact a qualified technician to make this repair", said Baker. DO NOT transport a leaking propane cylinder.  Contact a qualified technician.

Regular Maintenance Essential

Checking and cleaning the burners and "Venturi" tubes for spiders, spider webs and insect nests can prevent a fire. While it is true many newer barbeques have insect screens, they still require maintenance to keep them clean and clear. "Barbecues need to be thoroughly cleaned of dust, rust and debris at least annually. This means all grease run off's and drain holes as well", said Baker.

Replace worn hoses or "O" rings and remember that propane cylinders require re-certification every 10 years. Rusted and corroded burners and parts should be replaced.

Lighting Your Barbeque

Lighting a barbeque is not difficult and can be done safely by following a few simple rules.

  1. Position the barbeque on solid level ground
  2. Keep the barbeque away from windows and combustible surfaces.
  3. Open the lid before attempting to light the burner.
  4. Have the match or ignition source lit prior to the turning the gas control on.
  5. Always follow the manufacturer's lighting instructions.
  6. The burner flame should be blue with small yellow tips. If they are any other colour contact a qualified technician.

Safe Barbeque Storage & Propane Cylinder Transport

"Storage of barbeques remains another area of concern for safety", said Baker. His Technicians each year locate many that are stored in homes and basements with the propane cylinder attached and full of gas. Barbeques and cylinders were designed for outdoors use and MUST NEVER be stored and/or operated inside. Keep a safe distance away from combustible surfaces, at least three feet is a good rule, but read your manufacturer's operating instructions as they may require more that three feet. When not in use you should keep your barbeque covered and stored in a cooler location and never store a spare propane cylinder under the barbeque.

Be sure that when transporting of propane cylinders from one location to another that the valves are all closed, service plugs or caps are in place and that the cylinder is secured in an upright position. "Leak testing the cylinder prior to transport is a good habit to adopt and when placing the cylinder in the trunk leave the trunk open slightly for ventilation", said Baker.

Basic Safety Tips

Barbeques have the ability to generate intense amounts of heat with side burners, rear searing burners, cooking roasts for hours, etc. We must NEVER leave children unattended when the barbeque is in operation as severe burns can result. "Just like a camp fire barbeques should not be left unattended", said Baker. Not only might this lead to an overcooked dinner it will reduce the safety hazard for other people and grease flare-up's can create a fire. Homeowners should also have a certified fire extinguisher within 3 feet, so that if they need it, they will be prepared.

After a great BBQ dinner complete the procedure. Shut off the gas control valve, shut off the gas supply, close the lid and cover the barbeque to protect it from damage and rain. Next time you'll be all ready for another great Manitoba summer cookout.

If homeowners are not comfortable performing with the maintenance or completing safety repairs they should contact a certified fuel-appliance technician.

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R3E 1S5
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