A Michigan man was awarded $5 million after suffering burns to half his body in a food truck flash fire. Gary Leonard sued his sister and her companies. He was helping his sister prepare her food truck for a festival in 2013 when his lighter lit gas escaping from an unmarked valve, and caused an explosion. The injuries left Leonard hospitalized for three months in an induced coma, with many lingering health problems.
This incident, along with one in Philadelphia in 2014 that resulted in the death of a mother and her child, prompted Grand Rapids attorney Paul Janes to call for the need for food truck safety inspections.
In recent years, the safety issues associated with food trucks have been championed by NFPA and other safety-conscious authorities across the country. Following the tragic incident in Philadelphia, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) put together a proposal for a new chapter of NFPA 96, the Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations for the ventilation and fire protection controls in these types of operations. The IFMA proposal was highlighted in the NFPA Journal article “All Up in Our Grill”. NFPA 58, LP-Gas Code (propane), addresses safety as it relates to LP-Gas in these types of installations. Additionally, NFPA 1, Fire Code, includes new language regarding mobile and temporary cooking operations.
To spread awareness about related protocols and hazards, NFPA has created a food truck public education page with links to codes, a tip sheet and other relevant resources.