Ice-O-Matic is a manufacturer of commercial ice machine equipment. Their assembly plant and main office are located in Denver, CO. There are 106 employees that work on the assembly line, and 50 more work in the administration office. All of the 150+ people share a common break room that is accessed from the assembly floor. Since they are a manufacturing facility, safety is a key issue. So much so, that even visitors who only want to make the short 30 meter stroll from the office corridor to the break room need to wear safety glasses.
The break room itself is laid out like a large cafeteria lunch room. This layout is common in manufacturing plants or other businesses with several hundred employees. The communal tables allow employees to sit together and converse or banter back and forth while enjoying their lunches.
The center of the room has several folding tables surrounded by stacking chairs. The front wall is all glass, and looks out onto the production floor. One of the side walls has several folding tables which hold a number of conventional microwaves. The other side wall is lined with several vending machines and a cube ice machine on top of a hotel ice dispenser. The ice machine and dispenser all bear the Ice-O-Matic logo, of course.
The back wall has a Delfield glass door refrigerator that employees can use to store lunches they bring from home. Also on the back wall is a commercial coffee maker that the employees can use free of charge. The coffee maker is used for basic coffee, but if a worker wants something more exotic, one of the vending machines dispenses cappuccino and other coffee drinks. The other vending machines contain the usual soft drinks and snack chips. In addition to free coffee, Ice-O-Matic also gives their employees free ice.
All-in-all, the break room has enough seating for 50-60 people. Generally, the break room should be large enough to accommodate all of the employees at once. However, the workers on the production floor eat in shifts. Half of the workforce eats from 10:55 to 11:30am, and the other half goes from 11:25 to 12:00pm. There is an additional five minutes of cleanup time at the beginning of the break so the unionized workforce can have a full half hour for lunch.
The office workers get a full hour for lunch and tend to go out to eat or eat at the outdoor picnic tables, when the weather is nice. Sherry Martin, the HR manager, says, “I would say a lot of times, most people go outside to get away from the office.” However, the office workers sometimes eat in the break room or go there to get a snack from one of the vending machines.
The employees are not limited to eating their meals in the break room. There is also an outdoor picnic area that is used in the warmer months, and beside each work area on the production floor there are tables set up for workers to eat near their work station. The tables are set about 10 feet away from the work station. This is done for food safety purposes, so the ice machines or components are not contaminated on the assembly line.
Vending machines in the Ice-O-Matic break room
In addition to serving as a lunch room, the Ice-O-Matic breakroom is also used for training purposes. Every one or two months, shift supervisors are instructed to hold safety training for the workers that they manage. The break room is the ideal place to hold training because it can easily seat half the company, muffles some of the noise from the production floor and has a projector screen, which managers can utilize in their presentations.
As stated before, safety is a key issue for this production facility, and Ice-O-Matic wants to ensure the physical, financial and mental health of its workers. To do this, they publish monthly safety posters to hang throughout the factory and on the break room bulletin board. Along with the posters, they also have table tents with the current month’s safety message. Atop the tables there are also dislayettes that advertise an employee assistance program, which gives workers information on various professionals they can talk to regarding finances, emotional distress, family issues or any other hardships that crop up.
The Ice-O-Matic break room is in need of a few improvements. For starters, the green and white tile floor is a little dated and worn out, but replacing the floor was put on the backburner when the economy took a nosedive in 2008. Another thing that the break room could use is a sink. Currently, employees have to dump any old coffee or soda into a five gallon bucket by the coffee maker. That bucket has to be emptied repeatedly, so a hand sink will make things easier.