Safety tips for a right royal barbecue

Now that Kate and Wills have finally tied the knot, all of our patriotic bonhomie is likely to find expression in sun-soaked get-togethers this bank holiday weekend.

And as we all know, good weather and fine company can mean but one thing: barbecues!

Without wanting to pour water on your hot coals, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t warn you about some of the hazards involved in cooking al fresco.

With just a few simple preparations, families can easily avoid the burns, scalds and cuts that threaten to get in the way of a good time.

Rarely does a year go by without reports of serious injuries being sustained when something goes wrong at a barbecue. Last time accident figures were collected on a national level, around 1,800 people visited A&E in the UK having had an accident involving a barbecue.

Of those people, around 800 had suffered a burn or scald, and 200 had suffered a cut. The vast majority of these accidents (1,400) happened at home, with 300 occurring in a public place.

Barbecues should be fun, and will be safe if you prepare properly. Here’s how:

  • When choosing a barbecue, stability is essential – ensure the one you choose is strong and sturdy
  • Check the barbecue is in good condition (particularly if you have not used it for some time); look for loose or damaged parts requiring adjustment or repair
  • Consider the location – level ground, away from fences, sheds and overhanging trees, which have been known to catch fire
  • Never light a barbecue in an enclosed space
  • Prepare the barbecue early to ensure it is at the right temperature by the time you want to cook
  • Particular care should be taken in hot, dry weather to reduce the risk of starting a grass fire
  • Never pour petrol, meths or other accelerants on to a barbecue. Some of the most serious barbecue-related accidents happen when people do this and the barbecue “explodes” in their face
  • Use long-handled tools and be careful of steam when opening foil parcels – it can cause a nasty scald
  • Remember that the metal parts of a barbecue can become hot – don’t try to move it until it has cooled down
  • Don’t leave children unsupervised near a barbecue
  • Make sure the barbecue is fully extinguished before you leave it
  • Take care when getting rid of a disposable barbecue, or barbecue coals – ensure they have cooled down before placing them in a bin.

If you are planning to have a barbecue in a public place, the same precautions apply but also ensure that you are allowed to barbecue at the location you intend to use – and never leave the barbecue unattended.

Okay, preachy bit over. Now, where did I put that relish?

Michael Corley

RoSPA’s Campaigns Manager

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