Combining explosive fuels with food, hot metals, and large groups of people can cause be a recipe for disaster if you are not careful. Of course, there is more to outdoor cooking safety than just the fire.
Fire is the most destructive force in the universe and you are inviting it into your backyard for a little cookout. First thing you need is a fire extinguisher. Next you need to know your fire and know how to control it. Every year grills and smokers cause thousands of fires, hundreds of injuries, dozens of deaths and millions of dollars in damage. You need to know how to cut fuel supplies, extinguish fires and call the fire department. Always have one person in charge of the fire at all times, a fire marshal if you will. You should also know something about treating burns.
2. Food Safety
Bacteria eats every kind of food you can think of, even brussel sprouts. It grows at any temperature above freezing and stays alive until that temperature hits around 165 degrees F. Every second you give it between these two temperatures it is multiplying and causing disease in your food. So, until it goes in to your mouth or on the grill, it needs to be kept cool.
You'd be surprised by how many questions I get asked when the answer was in the manual. Please, read the manual . Follow all the safety restrictions to the letter. If you have a fire and you didn't follow the instructions it is your fault, no matter what. Grills, gas or charcoal, and smokers all have very specific ranges of operation. You need to know these before you light up.
Smoke gets in your hair, clothes, eyes, and lungs. While a big part of the cookout experience is the smoke, you need to be careful with smoke. Smoke from your grill or smoker contains carbon monoxide, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), and other dangerous substances. PAH are cancer causing substances that are formed when grease burns.
Location is everything when it comes to placing your grill or smoker. Every year hundreds of people cause fires to their houses, garages and patios because they didn't put their grill or smoker in the correct location. Your manual (tip #3) will tell you the minimum distances around your unit that must be kept clear.
6. Gas Safety
The number one cause of gas grill fires is an obstruction in the path of the fuel. This largely takes place, behind, underneath or inside your grill where you do not look. This means you need to regularly inspect your gas grill for problems.
7. Charcoal Safety
Charcoal grills are the cause of far more fires that gas grill. The number one problem with charcoal grill is lighting the charcoal. Lighter fluid causes all kinds of problems and you should really find a better way to light your coals.
Bad enough that you are using flammable materials to do your cooking, but the food itself is creating more. Flare-ups are more than a nuisance, they are potentially lethal. Grease that collects in your grill builds up over time. It is easy to get several pounds of grease in the bottom of your grill after only a few cookouts. This is why you need to keep your grill clean.
Cooking (by any method) of meats (particularly red meat and chicken) at very high temperatures until surface charring occurs can cause cancer causing substances (Heterocyclic Amines (HCA)) to form. If you eat a lot of grilled meats you need to worry (though no one knows exactly how much).
After reading the nine above you really shouldn't have to ask. Grilling and smoking require some clear thinking, especially when it's time to pull it all together. Please, keep a clear head and save that drink for after the fire is out and someone else is dealing with the dishes.