Medical waste contracts are not something to take lightly. Once you sign on the dotted line, you are financially and legally obligated to comply with the terms of that contract. What does this mean for your medical waste management? It means it's imperative you ask the right questions and get all the information about the contract before you agree to anything in writing.

What You Need to Ask Before Signing a Medical Waste Contract

Question #1: How Long Am I Locked Into This Medical Waste Contract?

You must know exactly how long you'll be required to stay in a contact once you sign. If the contract is longer than a year (and the company won't budge on that), this is a potential red flag. Ask yourself: Why are they so insistent I agree to such a long-term deal? After all, if you're happy with the level of service they provide and the medical waste disposal cost you're receiving, you would be happy to renew your contract or resign every year.

Question #2: Can I Get Out of This Contract? Are There Penalties Associated with That?

If you do decide to jump into a contract for your medical waste disposal needs, make sure you know if it's possible to then break that contract. It's likely there will be penalties associated with early termination of your terms, so be explicitly aware of those as well.

If the medical waste disposal company suddenly raises prices on you or starts to provide inadequate service, you want to know what recourse you have in terms of contract breakage.

Question #3: If I'm Not Happy, What Will You Do to Correct the Situation?

Written into the contract should be that company's obligations to you. That is, if you're not happy with any level of service they provide you, what will the company do to correct this? If they can't resolve a situation to your satisfaction, are you still locked into paying your contract—even if you feel that company hasn't lived up to their obligations?

There should also be stipulations about that company's pricing. For example, some waste management contracts will put in writing a maximum percentage the company is allowed to raise prices per year.

Question #4: Are There Any Hidden Fees or Extra Charges with This Contract?

With a contract, you're paying a set fee per month, but it's often not as black and white as all that. Written into the fine print, you'll often find your set fee is for a predetermined number of boxes of medical waste. If you go over any given month for your medical waste removal, you can be assessed fees on top of your monthly charge. If you're working outside of waste management contracts, you're just paying for the medical waste pickup services you use each month. Other services, such as OSHA trainings, are lumped into your monthly fee—whether you use them month in and month out or not.

Question #5: Do You Put an Emphasis on Education?

Any waste disposal company you're considering using for a long time needs to be knowledgeable about the waste management industry, and they need to put a premium on providing education to their customers when they ask for it.

For example, if you're relatively new to the world of medical waste, your waste management company should take the time to get to know you, your company, and what kind of waste you generate. After all, if you or your waste provider violates the rules for proper, legal disposal, you're liable to pay the fines and face the penalties.

Make sure the company can also explain exactly what kind of paperwork they'll provide with your waste shipments. This educates you, but it also provides peace of mind that they know what's legally required.

Question #6: Are You a Full-Service Waste Management Company?

Your medical facility is likely going to change over the years, and you want to make sure your waste management company can scale up or down with you and still offer the services you need. If you're going to be working with a company long term, you want that company to be able to handle your changing medical waste pick up needs. Therefore, make sure the company is full service and that the contract you're signing allows for scaling up or down as necessary.

Question #7: How Easy Is It to Get a Hold of a Customer Service Representative?

If you have a problem in the medical waste disposal industry, it's very likely you need an answer sooner rather than later. Especially if you're agreeing to a long-term contract with a company, they should be readily available if you ever need to contact them. Salespeople should also provide their cell numbers or other ways to get in contact quickly and easily.

If you have any doubt or concerns about this, consider calling their office on a trial basis to see if you can reach an actual person or if you're just diverted to a phone system.

Question #8: Do You Offer a Waste Management Service Agreement Instead?

If you're on the fence about signing a waste management contract of any kind but otherwise like the company you're dealing with, ask them if they would be willing to consider (or already offer) a waste management service agreement. In this scenario, you only pay for the services you use rather than paying a contracted monthly fee, and this gives you more freedom and flexibility—especially if your situation fluctuates or waste management needs change over time.

For more information about what questions you should ask medical waste disposal companies before signing a contract, feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a medical waste management company.