Barbecue and portable butane stove safety

Many Canadians love to barbecue all year-round, but especially when the weather starts to get warm. Find out how to use your barbecue and portable butane gas stoves safely.

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Barbecue safety tips

When barbecuing, it is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions. The instructions will tell you how to use, clean and maintain your barbecue.

Before use

If your barbecue has been sitting for a long period of time (over winter), it will need to be checked before use. Look for:

  • blocked burners or metal tubes near the burners
  • damaged or leaking fittings and hoses:
    • use a soapy water solution and check for bubbles
    • if you see bubbles, have the barbecue serviced by an authorized professional and then re-check for leaks
    • replace cracked or damaged hoses even if they are not leaking
  • a damaged seal (check the seal when you get your barbecue tank refilled and check for leaks after re-installing)

Also make sure the barbecue and burners are clean and the briquettes do not have a lot of grease buildup.

When setting up your barbecue, make sure it is:

  • outside and in a well-ventilated area
  • far away from combustible materials and windows and doors
  • on an even surface to reduce the risk of it tipping over

During use

When you use your barbecue, keep the lid open when lighting it. Follow these 3 steps:

  1. open the shut-off valve on your tank to turn on the gas
  2. turn the burner controls on the barbecue to the appropriate position
  3. ignite the barbecue using the igniter switch or other recommended means, making sure not to lean over the barbecue

If the barbecue does not light right away:

  • turn off the gas
  • wait for the gas to go away before re-lighting

Other tips:

  • never leave a lit grill unattended
  • use long-handled cooking utensils and heat-resistant mitts to reduce the risk of burns
  • inspect your barbecue brush and the barbecue grill before each use:
    • The metal bristles on the brush can become loose over time and stick to the grill.
    • The bristles can stick to food and could be accidentally swallowed, possibly causing serious throat or digestive injuries.
    • Replace your brush regularly to help avoid problems associated with wear.
    • Immediately throw your brush away if the bristles come loose or stick to the grill.
    • Alternatives that do not have metal bristles are also available for you to purchase.

After use

After barbecuing:

  • shut off the gas valve.
  • let the gas remaining in the connecting hose burn off.
  • close the burner controls.

If you have a charcoal barbecue, make sure the charcoal has cooled down completely before you get rid of it. This could take several hours.

Common barbecue fuels

There are some things you should know about the fuel you use for your barbecue:

  • propane and natural gas are odourless. For safety reasons, a "rotten eggs" smell is added before the gas is sold.
  • barbecues may produce carbon monoxide when used. Carbon monoxide is a harmful gas that has no colour, smell or taste. It can cause serious health problems or death if inhaled. That is why it is important to use your barbecue outdoors, in a well-ventilated area.
  • propane gas is heavier than air. Propane that leaks from a barbecue may remain in the lower cabinet or other low lying areas. If the rotten egg smell is gone, the gas has likely gone away.

Portable butane stove safety tips

Portable butane stoves with enclosed, disposable gas canisters can pose significant safety risks. These stoves are commonly used for camping and outdoor activities. If the butane gas canister overheats, extra gas can suddenly vent from the canister, creating a flash fire.

Always use caution with these devices.

Before use

  • Make sure to use a portable butane stove that meets Canadian national safety standards, is certified by an accredited certification body and check for certification marks such as CSA or Intertek. These marks indicate that the products are assessed and conform to the applicable Canadian national safety standard.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. The instructions will tell you how to use, clean and maintain your stove.
  • Make sure to install the disposable butane gas canister in the correct position to avoid gas leaks.
  • Portable butane stoves should never be used indoors or in confined spaces. The disposable butane gas canister can produce carbon monoxide, which has no smell or colour and can cause symptoms like headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, and death.

During use

To avoid flash fires from the gas canister overheating:

  • Always use the stove with the cooking grate the right-way up, with pot supports facing upwards, the stoves are often packaged and stored with the cooking grate upside-down
  • Never place a stove near other sources of heat or place additional stoves side-by-side
  • Only use pots and pans that fit the size of the cooking grate on the stove, so they do not cover the gas canister
  • Avoid using the stove for long periods of time
  • Allow adequate air-flow around the stove
  • Never leave a portable butane stove unattended

If the portable butane gas stove does not seem to be operating or light right away, turn off the gas canister and wait for the gas to go away before re-lighting.

After use

After using your portable butane stove:

  • shut off the stove.
  • Make sure the stove has cooled down completely before handling it.
  • Remove the gas canister when storing it away.

Some portable butane stoves are subject of a recall in Canada. Check the Health Canada recall databse to ensure that your stove has not been recalled. If it is, follow the directions in the recall.

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