Protecting Against Contaminated Ice

Protecting Against Contaminated Ice

Convenience stores, health care facilities, restaurants, hotels and motels always have significant ice needs for their customers and patients. 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” equipment such as your commercial ice machine.

While being able to provide your customers with the convenience of having a self-serve commercial ice machines, 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 damages sought by the affected customers.

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. Truth is, many “slip and 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.

Protecting Customers
To protect customers from a commercial ice machine contamination concern, you can start by properly displaying an “ice machine use and handling” instructions. This not only shows customers you truly care about their well being but also provides you with some defense against any liability.  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 almost always present. 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 itself keeping the ice free of human contact.

Here is a list of safe operating procedures for most ice machine environments:

  • Clean and Sanitize your ice machine on regular intervals
  • Wash hands before handling food or ice
  • If possible, install a dispenser and avoid using a shared ice scoop. If you must use scoop, Never Touch any part of the scoop but the handle
  • Wash and sanitize the ice scoop daily
  • Never touch ice with hands!
  • Do Not Allow any ice taken out from the ice bin 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.

Always think safety of your customers first.

By Daniel Hirsch