The Hidden Dangers of Barbecue Propane Grills

Summer is the perfect season for gathering with your family and friends in your backyard for a barbecue while enjoying the great weather, the sun, and a few drinks. [...]

Summer is the perfect season for gathering with your family and friends in your backyard for a barbecue while enjoying the great weather, the sun, and a few drinks. The majority of people use a propane barbecue grill for cooking meat and vegetables since they can provide a significant amount of power and heat up very rapidly. 

However, over 10,000 propane grill explosions occur every year, which can seriously endanger people’s health in close proximity. According to statistics, 60% of residential fires happen between May and August, when most people use propane grills for barbecues. The primary causes of propane grill explosions are leaks or breaks, which result in 22% of outside gas grill fires.

Propane, a naturally odorless, extremely flammable, and invisible gas, is stored in a tank that fuels the grill. If the tank is ruptured, impacted, or disturbed in any other way, a violent explosion can occur. 

It is worthy of note that propane tanks are not limited to outdoor cooking, as some people rely on them to fuel their furnaces to heat their home or patio, for a clothes dryer, or a water heater. If a propane tank explodes while it is in use, it can result in dramatic injuries and even death. 

As a safety measure, federal law requires propane manufacturers to add ethyl mercaptan to the gas, which isa chemical that smells like rotten eggs and manure. If you can smell this odor, this is a sign that propane is escaping the tank, and you must immediately close it to prevent it from exploding. A mere spark can lead to a propane gas tank exploding if enough gas has escaped from it.

What Are the Main Causes of Barbecue Propane Grill Explosions?

In the unfortunate case that you did not smell ethyl mercaptan before the explosion, there may have been numerous causes for the occurrence. Some of the factors that may have caused the propane tank to explode are the following:

·         there was not enough ethyl mercaptan added to propane: if there was not sufficient ethyl mercaptan added to the propane in the tank, it should come as no surprise that you could not smell it while it was escaping. This is a reason for which the company that manufactured the propane tank can be held liable

·      the smell of ethyl mercaptan has faded: the smell of this gas can fade, so manufacturers are required to train the employees who fill propane tanks to take the necessary steps to prevent odor fade

·      venting: the propane tank may release some gas through the safety valve while the pressure inside it increases. As a consequence, gas can build up over time in the cabinet underneath the grill, which may lead to the propane tank exploding

·         faulty propane tank: propane tanks can explode due to a defect in their manufacturing or design

·         defective gas regulators: as a piece that is usually attached to the propane tank, the gas regulator can also have a faulty design and can thereby lead to the propane tank exploding

·         faulty connectors and hoses: these components have the purpose of carrying propane safely from the tank to the burners of the grill and, if they are defective, they can result in the propane tank exploding as well.

People make a common mistake when using a propane barbecue grill by turning on the gas tank, leaving the cover of the grill down, and subsequently turning on the ignition; this leads to the accumulation of gas that may, in turn, cause a severe explosion. The solution is to keep the lid of the grill open when you turn on the propane tank so that gas cannot accumulate and cause the grill to explode. 

Another helpful way to determine whether your propane tank is leaking gas is to test it by using water and soap. You will need to spray the hoses and connectors with a mixture of soap and water and, if you notice the water bubbling, it means that gas is escaping the tank.

What Injuries Can a Barbecue Propane Grill Explosion Cause?

Every injury caused by a barbecue propane grill explosion is different, depending on the amount of gas involved and the person’s proximity, to the grill. Some of the most common injuries that stem from a propane grill explosion are the following:

·         severe burns: first-degree burns only affect the first layer of the skin and are thereby superficial. Second-degree and third-degree burns reach the innermost layers of the skin and can leave the sufferer with permanent impairment

·         loss of limbs: if the propane tank explodes when the user is adjusting it or when they are near the grill, they can experience the loss of a finger, hand, or arm

·         shrapnel injuries: the force of exploding propane tanks can make debris fly off it, and pieces of metal will subsequently cause severe cuts, as they may become embedded in your eye or other parts of the body

Nevertheless, there are other injuries that the explosion of a propane tank can lead to, such as contusions to the head and face, loss of vision or hearing, spinal cord injuries, lung damage, disfigurement of the face, poisoning due to monoxide, and even death. For this reason, you should always proceed with caution when using a barbecue propane grill, and you should regularly check it by using the soap and water method to detect any potential leaks of gas timely.

Who Is Responsible for a Barbecue Propane Grill Explosion?

In numerous cases, it is not the fault of the user that their propane tank exploded, as many of these devices have manufacturing and design defects. Accordingly, the companies that manufactured the defective product can be held liable for the injuries suffered by the user. If you experienced a severe injury due to damage caused by a propane tank exploding, you are entitled to financial compensation if the tank in question had a faulty design. 

The manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of propane tanks can be held responsible in the following situations:

·         when they manufactured or sold a product after failing to odorize the propane

·         when they manufactured or sold products with improper or missing labeling

·         when they failed to examine the propane tank equipment during production

·         when they manufactured or sold propane tanks that had defective gas connectors

·         when they manufactured or sold propane tanks that were not correctly prepared or filled

·         when they manufactured or sold products that were not assembled correctly

About the Author

Sean M. Cleary is a Miami, Florida lawyer specializing in product liability, providing legal assistance and representation to numerous clients for more than 15 years. Sean represents people injured by defective propane tanks, offering his clients the needed legal services to recover compensation for medical expenses, physical and mental suffering, lost wages, and reduction in lifestyle by demonstrating the negligence behind their injuries. 

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