Keeping BBQs Safe

Barbeques would have to rate in the top ten “pain in the proverbial” for building managers in any resort.

Everyday problems that arise are:

• Patrons not cleaning after usage
• Gas left on after usage
• Broken control knobs (users turning knobs the wrong way)
• Ignition failure (users getting flame flashback from gas build-up)
• Oil fires from cha grills
• Gas cylinders connected and not tested for leaks
• Patrons not knowing how to operate the BBQ.
• Sunday running out of gas when the manager is trying to relax.

All of these problems can be alleviated with the right type of commercial grade BBQ. Let’s look at the types of BBQs.

The most common type of BBQ installed in resorts is a domestic type.

These types usually have a hotplate and cha grill (hard to keep clean oils and fats drip into a sliding tray and usually catch fire. The gas rail cocks (controls) are light pattern alloy type and will not sustain the vigorous wear and tear of everyday use in a commercial type situation.

The ignition system (usually piezo type) and is not suitable for consistent everyday usage and consistently fails causing gas to build up and ignite causing an explosion.

The supporting frame for the BBQ is usually made of light pattern sheet metal and rusts out very quickly causing burners to drop out and creating a possible gas explosion. Control knobs are plastic light pattern and break easily.

The gas regulator supplied with these types of BBQs does not have over pressure protection in the advent of a flexible hose breaking.

If this describes your BBQ then you are skating on very thin ice in respect of a serious injury happening to one of your patrons and possible litigation that may send you to the wall.

Ask your insurance broker would you be covered for litigation claims if a serious injury with these types of BBQs occurred. It is the responsibility and duty of care, of the body corporate and the resort manager to provide a safe working appliance for their guests.

It is good practice to have your gas system checked at least once a year possibly twice a year by a licensed gasfitter. The licensed gasfitter can provide you with a gas safety certificate and a copy can be forwarded to your insurer.

It is also advisable to erect a sign at the BBQ informing your patrons on how to operate the appliance. It is disturbing, from experience, how many people do not understand how to operate a BBQ correctly. This signage would also show a duty of care.

Unfortunately body corporate personnel are usually not aware of the issues that can occur by installing domestic type BBQs and when purchasing a new BBQ dollars and cents usually foregoes commonsense.

Please consider the following:

There are commercial grade BBQs available that have the following features.

• One single hotplate and no cha grill, there is a usually a drain from the hotplate that disperses into a concealed drum that is locked away from the public. The hotplate is cleaned quickly and the drum is removable for easy cleaning. No mess no fuss takes minutes to maintain.
• To light the BBQ a one button push operation automatically lights the main burner. The main burner is concealed and has a flame failure device that shuts the gas down if the main burner does not ignite correctly (explosion proof).
• The BBQ has a timer that can be adjusted (usually 20 minutes) and automatically shuts down (prevents BBQ’S running on when patrons forget to turn off after cooking).
• Manufactured of high grade steel and stainless with a heavy duty supporting frame.
• Very low maintenance.

A quality commercial type of BBQ can cost approximately $2500 to $3500 dollars which, over the long term, will save you money.

It is advisable to consult a recognised supplier who understands the products available and can recommend the correct type for your needs.

Where natural gas is not available instead of using 9kg cylinders (and using gas exchange cylinders from service stations which is very costly) consider having you BBQ installed with a twin 17kg cylinder system with an auto changeover regulator. This system will ensure that you never run out of gas. The automatic changeover regulator will switch from one cylinder to another and a red indicator bar will tell you that one cylinder is empty. Simply phone your gas supplier who will deliver and change over the cylinder for you.

The initial installation cost will be recovered with what you save in the cost of gas.

When changing a gas cylinder, always after connecting the regulator to the cylinder use a soapy water solution, brush the solution around the connection to test for leaks bubbles will appear if the connection is not gas tight. Never use thread tape or jointing compounds on the thread that connects to the cylinder (POL connection left hand thread) as the connection is compression type fitting and if installed and tightened correctly will self seal.

Natural gas is lighter than air and disperses into the atmosphere unless in a confined space or a large volume leak occurs then an explosion is eminent. Liquefied petroleum gas (or propane) is heavier than air and disperses downward and usually leaking gas cannot be detected until an explosion takes place.

Always treat gas with the highest respect and use commonsense when handling gas cylinders or changing cylinders over. When transporting cylinders always secure the cylinder in an upright position and ensure that a sealing plug is inserted in the outlet valve. Never store cylinders in confined spaces or with flammable materials. Keep cylinders away from naked flames.

Ken Adams
KW & WM Adams Plumbing

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