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Protecting your Customers from Contaminated Ice

Convenience stores, health care facilities, restaurants, hotels and motels always have significant ice needs for their patrons. While every customer who walks through the door means additional revenue, it can also mean an increase in your liability if you aren’t doing all that is possible to ensure the sanitary conditions of “community/commonly shared” areas such as your commercial ice machines.

While being able to provide your customers with the convenience of having a self-serve commercial ice machine, it might also provide opportunities for public health concerns. For this reason, it is critically important that you the owner/operator, employee staff and even the customers who frequent the ice machine are made aware of how to properly utilize it safely.

Ice Machine Liability Concerns
Not only could dispensing ice improperly from commercial ice machines create health concerns regarding cross-contamination, sickness or disease, it can also easily lead you to be financially liable for any medical treatment or punitive damages sought by affected customers or their attorneys.

Just as if a customer who “slipped or fell” in your establishment could easily file suit against you, so too could anyone who might become sick as a result of an unsanitary condition which you might could have prevented; or in the least could have better instructed or warned patrons about. Truth is, many “slip & fall” cases are rarely filed as the result of the “action” or “condition” which caused the fall; but rather filed as the result of inaccurate, improper or complete failure on behalf of an employee, manager or owner to “warn” of the potential hazard.

By being aware of how to considerately and responsibly share community ice provided or produced from a commercial ice machine, the opportunity for cross contamination are significantly reduced. However, it is up to owners, operators and even staff to ensure that everyone knows and understands this and provides consumers with adequate warning and proper ice handling instruction.

Protecting Your Customers
To protect customers from a commercial ice machine contamination concern, you can start by properly displaying a “safe ice machine use & handling” warning and instructions. This not only shows customers you truly care about their well being but also provides you with adequate defense against any liability pursuit. Additionally, you should post a maintenance schedule to be signed by your staff for routine inspection and cleaning of the ice machine.

Safe Handling Instructions for Commercial Ice Machine Sharing
In a commercial kitchen, Commercial Ice Machines are necessary and beneficial. Employees must be made aware of their danger of sharing bacteria and contaminates. The simple use of an ice scoop is the best defense so the ice is never touched by anyone keeping it free from contaminants.

In a hotel, motel or healthcare facility, the only proper way to issue ice is with the use of an ice dispenser. This allows ice on demand for your customers, but does not allow them access to the ice bin itself keeping the ice free of human contact.

Additionally, here is a list of safe operating procedures for most environments with an ice machine.

  • Wash hands before using a Commercial Ice Machines
  • If possible, install a dispenser and avoid using a shared “scoop” (if must use scoop, Never Touch any part of the scoop but handle and wash hands)
  • Wash the ice scoop daily
  • Never touch ice with hands!
  • Do Not Allow any ice taken from Commercial Ice Machine to fall back into container.  In the event it does: Please remove all ice within that contaminated area.
  • Ensure the door of the ice bin remains closed after use.

Thank you for being safe and enjoy your ice:

By Daniel Hirsch

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