It is possible for diseases like coronavirus, also called COVID-19, to transfer from a dirty ice machine to customers and employees. An ice machine is not an environment where viruses thrive well. Still, when employees practice improper ice handling techniques, ice machine surfaces, and even ice itself, can transfer germs to other employees or customers.
We’ve put together a guide to help you protect Kansas and Missouri-based businesses from coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
How Does Coronavirus Spread?
Everything we know about coronavirus suggests that it is transmitted person-to-person. Airborne respiratory droplets from a person with COVID-19 can transfer to other people or onto surfaces for a short while. The time in which the disease survives surfaces depends on a number of factors, but current evidence suggests it is between a few hours to days.
It’s impossible to ensure your business will be 100% free from diseases. However, there are some best practices that can greatly reduce the risk of spreading the disease. This is the best way to prevent customers or employees from getting sick.
Stress to Employees to Wash Hands and Limit Unnecessary Contact
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the leading authority on the spread of infectious diseases. They’ve shared some best practices to help businesses stop the spread of diseases like coronavirus:
- No handshakes or hugs – use other methods to greet one another without contact
- Clean hands at the door and schedule regular hand washing reminders by email or text
- Create habits and reminders to avoid touching their faces and cover coughs and sneezes
- Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, food prep surfaces, and handrails regularly
- Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning
When washing hands, employees should spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing with soap and water. This is especially important after using restroom facilities, touching their face, caring for individuals, or handling money from customers.
Sick Employees Must Stay Home
Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Any employee showing these types of symptoms should stay at home. Even if the employee is only showing mild symptoms, they can still be contagious. At-risk individuals tend to develop far worse symptoms than others, so their safety should be a top priority.
Safe Ice Handling Practices Can Help Prevent the Spread Coronavirus
The interior of an ice machine bin is cold and made of an inorganic, antimicrobial lining. This environment is not a surface for viruses to thrive. Viruses also don’t thrive well on the surface of an ice cube. Still, that doesn’t mean that mean a person can’t catch a disease from a commercial ice maker.
According to David Covell, Health Commissioner for Lorain County, Ohio and President of the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, “As is with most of the diseases that might be associated with an ice machine, mostly the danger is someone dishing that ice out with their hand.”
If an infected individual coughs or sneezes into their hand and touches the bin door, dispenser button, or the ice supply, that area is contaminated and can potentially spread the disease to next user or into a customer’s glassware.
Here are a few tips you can follow when using an ice maker and bin:
- Always keep the ice bin door closed when ice is not being used.
- Require employees to wash their hands prior to scooping ice out of the bin.
- Always use an ice scoop to dispense ice. Do not scoop using glassware.
- Store the ice scoop outside of the bin.
Ice dispensers don’t utilize an ice bin. Instead, these machines have a button or lever users press to drop ice directly into glassware. They are popular types of hotel and hospital ice makers. While these systems may not require a scoop, users should still practice caution when using them. Someone who has contracted the disease can pass it onto the button or lever if they press it by hand. This can potentially spread the disease to the next user.
It’s not realistic to station an employee at the ice dispenser to disinfect it every time it’s touched. Still, there are things you can do to encourage employees to keep a sanitary ice dispenser.
“We have a big saying here in our mission statement,” Covell says, “We want to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Placing a supply of disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizing stations near the machine can help employees keep the area safe. Ask employees to wipe the area down or sanitize their hands after every use. If your entire staff works together to maintain a sanitary work environment, it will help decrease the chances of contamination.
Disinfect and Sanitize High-Use Surfaces on Your Ice Equipment
To eliminate germs like COVID-19, disinfect and sanitizing surfaces that users will likely touch.
There is a difference between disinfecting and sanitizing. Disinfecting kills germs using a disinfecting agent. Keep in mind, you must rinse the area of any remaining disinfectant, especially if it’s a food contact surface.
Sanitizing uses a lesser concentration of disinfectant to lower the number of bacteria on a surface to safe state-regulated levels. When sanitizing, you need to allow the agent to air dry, so it has enough contact time to work. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended mixing instructions for sanitizing to ensure the surface is safe and non-toxic to people.
Finally, cleaning your ice machine’s air filter regularly will decrease the growth of biofilms in your ice maker.
Keep Your Business Safe from Diseases Such as COVID-19
Keeping employees and customers safe is a top priority. Follow CDC guidelines and maintaining a regular ice machine cleaning schedule can help prevent the spread of diseases like coronavirus.
At Ice-Masters, we professionally clean and sanitize ice machines for businesses in the Kansas and Missouri area. Professional cleaning helps to reduce mold, slime, and other microorganisms. Our ice machine service also helps in cleaning slime, scale, or sediment as well. We take ice machine cleaning seriously so your employees and customers stay safe.