For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is reminding New Yorkers of basic safety tips ahead of Labor Day weekend, including tips for using gas or charcoal grills, water safety tips and bike safety tips. Follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower New York consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to your email or phone here.
“Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer when New Yorkers gather to celebrate and enjoy the last days of warm weather with a variety of activities,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “Whether you’re spending the upcoming holiday grilling with family and friends, visiting a local pool or beach or enjoying one of New York State’s beautiful bicycle trails, following these basic safety tips will help to ensure you have a fun and safe weekend.”
GRILL SAFETY TIPS
According to statistics from fire departments around the United States, there are about 10,600 home grill fires reported annually, including around 4,900 fires per year in or on structures. Approximately 100 deaths due to grill fire injuries are reported annually, and about $135 million in direct property damage is reported per year. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration statistics also reflect that the majority of home grill fires happen between May and August, the summer months when grills are used more often. Additionally, 79% of all grill fires are from gas grills.
Gas and charcoal grills also present a risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning that could result in injury or death. Of the thousands of grill-related injuries reported in hospital emergency departments each year, many are related to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Use your grill safely:
- Have a fire extinguisher nearby and easily accessible in case of a fire.
- Inspect the hoses on a gas grill and make sure all connections are secure.
- Check for propane gas leaks.
- Make sure the grill and grease trap are clean.
- Make sure the grill is stable and on a level, flat surface.
- Always start a gas grill with the lid open.
- Light charcoal in a charcoal chimney.
- Only use grills outside in a well-ventilated area.
- Never leave a grill unattended.
- If a flare-up occurs, turn off the gas or spread out the coals to lower the temperature.
- If a grease fire occurs, turn off the gas and use baking soda and/or a fire extinguisher to put out the fire.
- Keep children away from the grill area.
Store your grill and fuel tanks safely:
- Leave charcoal grills outside.
- Use caution when storing liquid propane (LP) gas containers. Always keep containers upright. Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill. Never store a full container indoors.
- Transport LP gas containers carefully. Consumers should transport the container in a secure, upright position and never keep a filled container in a hot car or trunk.
Keep food safety in mind:
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator — never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. If you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding raw meat, poultry or seafood. Don’t reuse marinade.
- Meat must be cooked to the proper temperature. Always check the temperature with a meat thermometer.
- Don’t reuse platters or utensils.
- Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. To prevent bacteria growth, cold food should be kept at 40 °F or below, and hot food should be kept at 140 °F or higher.
- Refrigerate any leftovers immediately! Never leave food at room temperature for more than two hours, or only one hour if the temperature is above 90 °F.
WATER SAFETY TIPS
Safety tips for ALL bodies of water:
- Adult Supervision: Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate a Water Watcher. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone, drinking alcoholic beverages or otherwise distracted.
- Choose bright colors: Consider the color of your child’s swimsuit before heading to a pool, beach or lake. For light-bottomed pools, neon pink and neon orange tend to be the most visible. For lakes and dark-bottomed pools, neon orange, neon green and neon yellow tend to be the most visible.
- Identify swimmers in need of help: Watch out for people whose heads are low in the water (mouth submerged) or tilted back with mouth open, eyes closed or unable to focus, legs vertical in the water or who are trying to swim but not making progress.
- Swimming Lessons: Multiple studies show swimming lessons prevent drowning. Parents are encouraged to enroll their children in swimming lessons, as the most basic swimming skills can help keep a child safe in the water.
- Learn CPR: Every second counts and CPR can help in an emergency.
Open water safety:
- Wear Life Jackets: Put life jackets on kids anytime they are on a boat or participating in other open water recreational activities. Personal flotation devices should always be used for children that do not know how to swim. New Yok State law requires that children under 12 wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest on a boat or water vessel. For more information on proper life jackets, go to the United States Coast Guard site.
- Choose a spot on the beach close to a lifeguard: Swim only when a lifeguard is on duty.
- Watch for warning flags and know what they mean: Green flags usually mark designated swimming areas – be sure to swim between the green flags. Yellow flags may denote a surfing beach or an advisory. Red flags indicate a danger or hazard, and no one should swim when they are shown.
- Watch out for rip currents: Rip currents are powerful currents moving away from shore. They tend to form near a shallow point in the water, such as a sandbar, or close to jetties and piers and can happen at any beach with breaking waves. If you are caught in a rip current, try to remain calm and don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current, and float or tread water if you begin to tire. More from the National Weather Service, Break the Grip of the Rip.
- Beware of large waves and strong surf: Ocean swimming is different from swimming in a calm pool or lake. Large waves can easily knock over an adult. Be prepared for strong surf as well as sudden drop-offs near the shore.
- Put up barriers: Install appropriate safety barriers around in-home pools and spas. This includes fences, gates, door alarms and covers.
- Pool alarms: Install a pool alarm to detect and provide notification of unattended pool access.
- Small pools: Drain and put away smaller portable pools when not in use.
- Cover drains: Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid them getting stuck. Also, ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards. Learn more here.
BIKE SAFETY TIPS
In 2021, according to preliminary data from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, there were 1,455 police-reported bicycle crashes statewide in which a helmet was used. Of those, seven crashes resulted in at least one fatality and 121 crashes resulted in at least one serious injury. In comparison, there were 3,946 police-reported bicycle crashes statewide in which a helmet was not used. Of those, 32 crashes resulted in at least one fatality and 378 crashes resulted in in at least one serious injury.
- Pair the activity to the helmet: Different activities can result in different impact to your head. Use a helmet that fits the activity, so if an accident occurs, you are better protected.
- Make sure it fits: Bike helmets should have a snug but comfortable fit on the rider's head. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has a guide on properly fitting bicycle helmets, helmet certifications and laws and more.
- Buckle up: A helmet only works when it is worn properly for the duration of an activity. Make sure your helmet has a chin strap and buckle that lays flat and stays fastened. Wear your helmet level on your forehead, not tilted back.
- Conform to regulations: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) oversees helmets for many activities, including bike riding. For instance, bicycle helmets must conform to five separate standards:
- ASTM F1447, F18981: A helmet that complies with this standard is designed for use by infants and toddlers in activities involving non-motorized wheeled vehicles.
- Snell B-90A, B-95, N-942: A helmet that complies with this standard is designed to withstand more than one moderate impact, but protection is provided for only a limited number of impacts. Replace if visibly damaged (e.g., a cracked shell or crushed liner) and/or when directed by the manufacturer.
- When buying a bike helmet, look for the label that reads: “Complies with U.S. CPSC Safety Standards for Bicycle Helmet.” Don’t add anything to the helmet, such as stickers, coverings or other attachments that didn’t come with the helmet upon purchase. These could affect the helmet’s performance.
- After a crash or injury, replace: Once a helmet protects a person from a fall, it should no longer be used. Any damage to a helmet can reduce its effectiveness. Replace it before the next ride.
- Replace your helmet when needed: You should follow the manufacturer’s guide for when to replace your helmet. If no guidance is provided, helmets should generally be replaced within 5-10 years of purchase if properly cared for and stored. If there are cracks in the shell, worn foam lining or other such imperfections that may occur during regular use, you should consider replacing it.
More details and tips from the CPSC are available here.
- Follow the same rules and responsibilities as motorists.
- Bicyclists should ride with the flow of traffic, while walkers should go against traffic.
- Ride in a safe environment away from traffic in a path, park or trail.
- Check out the full list of NYS Department of Motor Vehicle’s tips on how to share the road safely whether driving, biking or walking.
About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.