Established in 1865 under a different name, Harbison-Walker Refractories once used asbestos as a mainstay of its products, which included fireproof brick and refractory cement. By the 1990s the company faced more than 200,000 asbestos-disease claims.
Harbison-Walker Refractories started under the name Star Fire Brick Company with its primary products including fireproofing cements and bricks made so they withstand high temperatures. By 1967, Harbison-Walker merged with Dresser Industries, a subsidiary of Halliburton, a company made famous under the leadership of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Quickly, Halliburton learned it would be flooded with asbestos claims from Harbison-Walker Refractories. As a result of the Harbison-Walker’s bankruptcy proceedings in 2002, the DII Industries, LLC Asbestos PI Trust was established and funded with more than $4 billion. Today, Harbison-Walker Refractories is known as HarbisonWalker International. The company serves industries that include cement and lime, energy, chemical and hydrocarbon and mineral processing.
Harbison-Walker employed a wide range of employees, most who worked in the company’s manufacturing plants, who were at risk for asbestos exposure. At the same time, others who worked outside the company were also at risk. The following jobs are considered hazardous occupations:
The DII Industries Trust (Harbison-Walker Refractories Trust) was funded in 2005 with more than $4 billion. As of the end of 2014, the most recent data available, the trust had about $2 billion in assets.
When the trust was opened, analysts expected some 1.9 million claims would be filed during the life of the trust. In 2014, that estimate was updated to 262,000 claims through the life of the trust.
As a refractory, Harbison-Walker made fireproof cement, bricks, rope and castable concrete, among many products. The products were required to be fire and heat proof to ensure they could endure high temperatures. Many products came in a dry powder form and contained as much as one-third asbestos.
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