A propane grill can be found on almost every backyard porch and they are central to almost every BBQ or backyard party. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 76 percent of the houses in America have a propane gas grill. Gas grill accidents are responsible for approximately 17,000 emergency room visits across the United States every year. Propane grill accidents result in ten fatalities every year. More and more people are replacing their charcoal grills with propane fueled grills every year and this results in an increase of propane grill fire accidents every year.
Causes of Propane Grill Explosions and Fires
Odor fade and venting are the most common causes of propane grill explosions and fires.
Propane Gas Odorization and Odor Fade
Propane gas is odorless and colorless. This can make it very difficult to detect a propane leak. A chemical compound named ethyl mercaptan is added to propane in order to make it smell like rotten eggs. Federal law requires this chemical to be added in order to allow consumers to detect a leak.
Countless people have been injured transporting propane tanks and using propane tanks because leaks were not detected. Odor fade is a major problem for grill manufacturers. The rotten egg smell created by ethyl mercaptan can fade over time. Some studies show the smell begins to fade a week after the tank is filled and other studies have shown the odor can be completely undetectable with three weeks of being filled.
Odor fade is caused by one of the following:
- The existence of iron oxide in the storage tank causes oxidation of the ethyl mercaptan. The oxidation process removes the odor of rotten eggs; or
- The ethyl mercaptan is removed from the propane when it is absorbed into the lining of the tank.
Oxidation and absorption problems are more serious with newer tanks. The best way to counteract odor fade is to:
- When having your propane tank refilled, only fill 80 percent of the tank;
- Do not allow the propane to sit or go used for prolonged periods of time.
Safety Valves and Gas Tank Venting
When the pressure in the gas tank increases a process called venting can occur. An explosion can occur if the pressure inside the propane tank is increase to a certain point. Propane expands when it is exposed to heat. Tanks are equipped with a safety valve that releases propane from the tank when the air pressure increases to dangerous levels. The air pressure and explosion risk is reduced when safety valve releases propane. A faulty safety valve could prevent the release of propane gas which could allow the internal pressure to increase to an unstable level resulting in an explosion. Many things can cause a propane tank’s internal pressure to rise to dangerous levels. Excessive heat is the most common cause as temperature increase can cause an increase in the propane tank’s internal air pressure. A propane tanks internal pressure can rise due to prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. Propane tanks could also be stored in a shed, garage or enclosed area that is easily prone to spikes in temperature. Propane tanks can also be overfilled. Massachusetts law requires propane tanks to be equipped with overfill prevention devices.
If the propane grill is located in a closed area then the venting process could also create an explosion hazard. A propane tank enclosed in a cabinet or stored in a garage could over heat causing the tanks internal pressure to increase triggering the safety value to initiate the venting process. A confined space like a cabinet or garage does not have great ventilation. As a result, the propane that is released can buildup in these confined spaces over time. If a confined space with little ventilation is filled with enough propane it could be easy to ignite. Something as simple as turning on the garage light or activating the automatic garage door opener could ignite the propane.
Propane Grill Tank Safety
The State of Massachusetts requires propane tanks to be equipped with overfill prevention devices. This device prevents people from refilling the tanks with an unsafe level of propane gas. Additionally, improvements were made to the hoses and connectors that carry the propane from the tank to the appliance or BBQ. Particularly with BBQs made after 1995, a shut-off mechanism is triggered if the grill overheats or malfunctions.
Who Can be Held Responsible for Propane Grill Explosion and Fires?
Every case is unique. Different people or businesses could be responsible for depending on the facts of the accident. Anyone of the following could be responsible for propane grill explosion injuries.
- The propane grill manufacturer, seller or designer
- The business that refilled the propane tank
- The business that serviced or repaired the grill
- A homeowner, property owner, neighbor or business that used or provided the grill that caused the explosion and your injuries.
Have you Been Injured in a Propane Grill Accident?
Experienced Boston Area Personal Injury Attorneys – Initial Consultations Are Always Free – No Fee Unless We Recover For You
If you were injured in a propane grill accident that was not your fault, then call our explosion accident attorneys at The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan today and we will review the facts of your case for free. As part of our free no-obligation consultation we will then present you with all your options.
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