I love good barbeque! I don’t care if it’s chicken, ribs, sausages, fish, or even grilled veggies. Believe it or not, pineapple works great with a big steak on the grill. But most of us use the easy does it gas grill to cook up our food. My gas grill is a beautiful stainless steel job with an infrared hot burner (which is really too hot for most good cooking). The problem with gas is that it is almost too easy. It is like driving; it becomes so easy we forget about the danger of using the darn thing.
Last month in my cousin’s hometown of Philadelphia a taco truck blew up. Five people were critically injured, and seven others suffered more minor burns and injuries. The reason it blew up was that the propane tank leaked.
That isn’t as much a surprise as one might think. There are some explosions due to manufacturing defects; others are due to poorly installed gas grills; some are directly traced to construction workers breaking the grills or the lines and causing gas to leak. This does not count the hundreds of electrical burns, car-fire burns related to automobile accidents, and other work or negligence that causes victims to face burn injuries and which we face with them as South Florida personal injury attorneys. We have developed a bit of a niche in file and burn cases, and exploding gas grills is a big source of injury work for both our office and the Kendall Regional Burn Center or the Jackson Burn Center, both in Miami, FL (where everyone in South Florida goes for their significant burns.) The National Fire Prevention Center has indicated that there are more than 7,000 fires caused by gas grills each year. Many of those fires are explosion fires caused by leaking propane tanks, poorly installed gas lines to the grills, and operator failure in keeping gas running and trying to light the burners. Key holidays are prime time for gas grill explosions. I researched cases for two men here in West Palm Beach who were injured in gas grill files over the past year. Both inadvertently did the same thing by leaving the gas on too long before lighting the burner. One had his whole body engulfed in flames and watched his skin melt off his arms, and the other blew the skin literally off the front of his legs. One poor girl was headed in for a great BBQ dinner at her friend’s house when the gas grill blew and set her on fire.
Types of Burns
There are three types of burns, each listed as a “degree.”
- First-Degree Burns: These are the least severe. A first-degree burn will cause pain and injury only to the epidermis, which is the outer layer of the skin. It is the equivalent of sunburn without blisters. There is usually dryness to the area affected. The healing will take 3 to 5 days and typically there is no hospitalization, but if there is any medical treatment involved it is for pain management.
- Second-Degree Burns: There is a significant jump in the level of injury between the first-degree and second-degree categories. The second-degree burn category is now split into two classifications:
- Partial Thickness Burn: These burns are those where blisters are present. They involve the entire epidermis and upper layers of the dermis (the lower level of the skin as an organ). The wound will usually be pink or red and is typically painful. It often looks wet. A partial-thickness burn will usually heal in two to three weeks and does not typically associate with scarring or require grafting.
- Full Thickness Burn: Things get very difficult if you have a second-degree full-thickness burn. These appear red or white but dry. They also involved the destruction of the entire epidermis and most of the dermis. Sensation on touch will be diminished but often returns partially. Many times the skin that returns is blanched or sluggish. Many times the skin that returns is absent, it just will not grow back. Most of the time this level of burn will require excision of dead skin and grafting of new skin.
- Third-Degree Burns: These are the worst burns, the horror movie-looking burns. They destroy all the skin layers. They go into and affect the subcutaneous tissue. The area will look black and will be dry. It will appear to look or feel like leather. There is typically no pain because all the pain receptors have been burnt off.
The problem is that people mistake the gas grill as a full-proof way to safely use fire and gas. It is a very safe method, but be sure to keep grilling safety in mind.
Grilling can be safe if you follow these precautions:
- You can’t turn on the gas; keep the grill lid shut, and hit the ignition button. This often produces an explosion of a must more significant magnitude than anyone would expect. The best way to light up a gas grill is to keep the lid open and immediately after turning on the gas you try and light it up. Do not sit and count to 10; don’t wait around at all. Light the grill. Remember that no matter what, do not bend over the top of the grill as you light it. You may lose more than just your eyebrows.
- Before using your gas grill, check the lines for leaks. It is hard to tell sometimes, so spray your hoses and all the connections with soapy water. Let the soapy water sit for a moment and observe all the lines and especially any connections. If you can see the water bubbling up it is a good indicator that you have a gas leak. Tighten your connections; fix old lines; don’t take any chances.
- Sometimes the grill doesn’t light because the ignition is worn. Be careful when that occurs. If you are hitting the ignition switch and the grill isn’t lighting, but you can hear and/or smell the gas then the ignition may be bad. At that point turn off the gas! Don’t walk away for a lighter. You must turn off the gas, and let the grill sit for 3 to 5 minutes. You can even fan the area to make sure that lingering gas doesn’t explode on your next attempt to light the grill. Don’t be impatient. It is better to stay safe.
- If possible, keep your grill at least 3 to 5 feet away from the house when in use. That way, if there is a fire or explosion, at least the house doesn’t burn down too!
Gas grills are usually pretty reliable and for the most part safe to use, but wise behavior is important. Remember, if there is an injury it should be investigated. Many times these injuries are due to user error, but sometimes it is another party whose negligence could have caused the explosion. Getting an attorney who understands your injury is half the battle. Burns cause far more extensive injuries than to just the burned body part of the skin. Anything close to full-thickness burns has long-lasting health effects on the entire human body. It is an awful and painful experience and having an attorney on your side who understands your injury is really worth it.