Legionella bacteria and other waterborne pathogens have been detected in samples taken from ice machines and water dispensers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been traced back to water and ice from ice machines. A common way for this to occur is when patients in hospitals are given ice chips and water followed by aspiration or choking (breathing in contaminated water droplets).
For these reasons, ice machines require a written maintenance strategy per The Joint Commission. Ice machines that provide patient nutrition are considered high-risk utility system components due to their infection control risk as described within the Joint Commission’s EC.02.05.01 Standard, for the purpose of minimizing pathogenic bacteria in domestic cold water systems. Healthcare Facilities must develop a maintenance strategy that will help achieve infection prevention through activities such as disinfection of ice machine internal parts.
A disinfectant (typically chlorine) is added to drinking water supplies to limit bacterial growth. However, charcoal filters are sometimes used to remove free chlorine from the water for taste purposes, leaving that water more susceptible to bacterial contamination. Most bacteria do not multiply in ice but can survive in these low temperatures and will multiply when brought up to higher temperatures; this can happen when the bacteria are introduced to a person’s lungs as a result of aspiration. Furthermore, ice machine components like the chiller compressor may heat the cold water supply to warmer temperatures, allowing for faster amplification inside the system.
To be compliant with The Joint Commission requirements, a successful written maintenance strategy will include the following actions:
- Considerations of supply water filtration
- Disinfection schedule for internal ice machine parts
- Protocols for protecting external surfaces from bacterial contamination
- Proper documentation of these events
- Validation by sampling for bacteria
Our Environmental Group is properly trained to sanitize ice machines and provide detailed cleaning reports and validation testing.