Dow Polyurethanes raises prices

Dow Polyurethanes, Midland, Mich., increased off-list prices for its pure and polymeric methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) products and VORANOL* polyether and co-polymer polyols by 6 cents per pound for rail-car shipments. The MDI price increase is for flexible coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers, as well as rigid applications in North America. The increase for polyether and co-polymer polyols applies to coatings, adhesives, sealants, elastomers and rigid applications in North America. The price increases were effective Jan. 1.

"There has been continued cost pressure on MDI and polyol production throughout 2002," says Richard Beitel, Dow Polyurethanes' commercial director. "The result has been a decrease in margins and loss of profitability for Dow Polyurethanes. To be a viable, long-term supplier of these products, we need to increase prices and recover our losses."

Foreman and company are found guilty

A Michigan court may have created a new litigation trend when it found a concrete company and its foreman guilty of involuntary manslaughter and a Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) felony. The foreman instructed a 24-year-old worker to drive a gravel-hauler tandem rig under a power line and raise the truck bed despite receiving several notifications and warnings that work could not commence until the power line was de-energized and moved. The driver was electrocuted and died.

The foreman was sentenced to 360 days in jail and three years of probation. He must pay a $1,000 fine, $450 court fee and $100 monthly supervision fee (totaling $3,600), as well as $50 to the Crime Victim Rights Fund.

The concrete company, which pleaded no contest, received a five-year probation and 180 days of community service for the involuntary manslaughter charge. The company also must pay $156,903 in fines and $8,100 for supervision fees. For the MIOSHA felony, the company received a two-year probation and $10,350 in fines and must pay a $50,000 MIOSHA penalty. In addition, the company must follow the terms of the MIOSHA Settlement Agreement, which will help MIOSHA monitor the company and ensure it safely conducts business.

According to the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services, this is the first time an employer in Michigan will serve jail time for a workplace fatality.

Halliburton reaches asbestos agreement

On Dec. 18, 2002, Halliburton Co., a Houston-based oil services company, announced it reached an agreement in principle for a global settlement to pay personal-injury claims for those who are sick from asbestos exposure.

The settlement will cover 300,000 pending asbestos claims and establish a trust to pay future claims against Halliburton and its subsidiaries. To finalize the settlement, the agreement must be approved by Halliburton, its board and the court.

In addition, financing must be established to fund payment of claims and the trust.

Dave Lesar, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Halliburton, says: "The plan provides for resolution of all asbestos and certain other personal-injury claims. There will be no employee layoffs resulting from the plan, and all salaries and benefits, including retirement benefits, will remain unchanged."

If the settlement is approved, it will be the most significant development in asbestos litigation since the Supreme Court's 1999 Owens Corning decision. Owens Corning, Toledo, Ohio, voluntarily filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 to resolve its asbestos liabilities. The company received 460,000 asbestos-related personal-injury claims and paid or agreed to pay more than $5 billion.

Similarly, Honeywell International Inc., Morris Township, N.J., reports it will release details about resolving asbestos lawsuits with 190,000 of 200,000 claimants by Jan. 17.

Experts speculate asbestos litigation has sent 20 companies into bankruptcy since January 2000 and may cost U.S. businesses more than $200 billion.

Halliburton details

  • Halliburton will retain 100 percent ownership of subsidiaries.

  • Halliburton will designate $2.75 billion in cash and about 60 million shares of Halliburton stock to fund the trust.

  • The plan preserves customers', employees', vendors' and financial creditors' rights.

  • Existing contracts and obligations will be honored, and creditors will be paid in full.

  • The first $2.3 billion in insurance proceeds will be retained.

  • The agreement will be implemented through prepackaged Chapter 11 filings of some Halliburton subsidiaries.

How am I doing?

To determine whether your management skills are effective, ask your employees what they would like to see you do more or less often. Probe them for enough information to help you make positive changes. Also, find out what employees like about your management style. You can use your employees' answers to build stronger relationships with them. Finally, explain your management intentions to your employees. For example, if your intention is to give employees freedom to do their jobs well, explain that and ask whether you're succeeding.

Source: Adapted from The Game, as cited in Communication Briefings, August 2002 issue.

Positive thinking

When work is piling on your desk and you think you cannot complete it all, reason with yourself to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Try thinking the following positive thoughts:

  • "I'll get it right." Avoid remembering past failures, which may discourage you. Instead, focus on good work experiences and reassure yourself you properly will complete your work on time.

  • "I need to … ." Instead of believing you can't do something in the time allotted, determine what you must do to complete a task. For example, think, "To learn the computer system in two days, I need to read the manual and have an expert answer my questions."

  • "There's a better way to do this." Rather than resigning yourself to working late for several days to complete a task, try finding an easier and possibly quicker way to work.

Source: Adapted from Reject Me—I Love It!, as cited in Communication Briefings, November 2002 issue.


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