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The Research & Education Division works to improve understanding of occupational and environmental hazards to reduce workplace deaths and injuries. To achieve primary prevention, electrical incidents are the paradigmatic problem studied for insights into the challenges and opportunities. Educational alliances allow transfer of new information to key audiences.

Why Study Electrical Incidents?

No one should be killed or injured around electrical energy. Yet electricity use entails a human cost measured by fatalities, traumatic injuries, and significant social losses. Employers pay through health spending, insurance bills, corporate taxes, litigation, regulation, and indirect expenses.

A 1999 published Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) study led by Dr. Ronald Wyzga reviewed a utility employer’s electrical incident experience over a two-year period. The company’s total spending estimate was approximated as $15.75 million per case when related indirect costs were factored in with direct expenses.

In 1994, the Census of Fatal Injuries reported that 548 employees died of electrical current exposure, fires and explosions. Electrocution was the second most-common cause of construction-related fatality. Generally, work-related fatalities in the US are well-counted, because death certificates are rigorously monitored. But when a fatal task is done as an act of friendship, recreation, or family living, death statistics may not reflect occupational involvement.

The number of non-fatal workplace energy-related accidents is unknown. A survivor who is not an electrician may not even be considered. However, Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 1994 show 11,153 employee cases of reported days away from work due to electrical burns, electrocution/electrical shock injuries, fires, and explosions: that's 30+ cases each day! 

For example, in May 2000 a Los Angeles television reporter was severely injured during a high-voltage electrical incident when she was in a van parked near overhead power lines. During the same week, across the country in Ybor City outside Tampa, a construction site electrical incident created the ignition of a fire destroying a multi million-dollar property development.

Scenarios may not be identified as failures of safe electrical work practices. A June 2000 story in the Kenosha News underscores this point. In a gesture that speaks of fundamental American generosity, a neighbor offered to fix a friend’s microwave oven. He paid for this kindness with his life. He must not have realized the stored electrical energy in the appliance could kill him. He begged for help during the moments before he died, but no one could save him.

Confusion in our medical language obscures the scope of occupational electrical injury. Sometimes injury severity is viewed in terms of a need for hospital admission. Even so, a person not hospitalized after an electrical shock may never work again. How can an event that results in unemployment ever be minor?

When the release of energy is unanticipated by those doing work, the results are potentially devastating. Research is key to gaining further insight into human performance and the demands of highly technical jobs. The globalization of economic forces with consequent constriction of research funding demands new approaches to supporting studies.

CapSchell, Inc. sees partnerships as essential to allow the best research investment. Strategies to optimize the integration of industry and academic perspectives are critically to achieve programmatic goals that prevent or respond to electrical events across locations and activities.


Educational Alliances

The digital revolution of the 21st Century depends on a basic advance of the 19th Century: electricity. Like Thomas Edison in the 1800s, let us imagine new possibilities. Innovation incidents.

Educational alliances are the mechanism CapSchell, Inc. uses to share research data and interpretations. Data and interpretations are building blocks for innovation. The payoff from alliances can be measured in these enterprise benefits:

bulletInformation access quickened
bulletFatalities and injuries reduced
bulletProperty protected
bulletEconomic productivity increased
bulletPost-incident energy and raw material waste minimized
bulletEnvironmental damage reduced



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Last modified: January 12, 2004