Co-workers grieve after death in acid accident

Employees were given a day to spend time with their families and grief counselors were on duty at the circuit-board factory where an 18-year-old man died after falling into a vat of sulfuric acid.

The tone was somber outside the Coastal Circuits building, at 1602 Tacoma Way, on Monday following the death of employee Fernando Gonzalez early Sunday.

Gonzalez died of asphyxiation after slumping headfirst into a vat containing sulfuric acid diluted to a 10 percent concentration, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said.

Gonzalez was not wearing any protective gear over his face while submerging circuit boards into the acid, said Kate McGuire, spokeswoman for the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health.

As he was working, Gonzalez leaned over the vat and was overcomeby the fumes and fell face-first into the solution, where he died.

“We don’t know if he was supposed to be wearing [protective gear], or what the workplace regulations are for that particular occupation,” McGuire said. That will be among the issues Cal-OSHA plans to investigate in the coming weeks.

Coastal Circuits, a 35-year-old company that moved to Redwood City in 1992, produces custom circuit boards used to test other electronic devices, such as the semiconductors in computer chips, COO Laura Boozer said.

Employees at the facility work in two eight-hour shifts. One shift begins at 7 a.m. and the other begins at 3:30 p.m.

Gonzalez and another employee worked overtime Saturday night in order to complete a rush order, Coastal Circuits spokeswoman Heather Fitzsimmons said.

When he didn’t come home from work, Gonzalez’s father, who is also an employee at the factory, came to the warehouse and discovered his son dead, police said.

Several members of Gonzalez’s family work at the factory, Boozer said.

“We are giving everyone the option to go home and spend time grieving and thinking about this,” Fitzsimmons said Monday.

“The majority of people have chosen to spend time with their families, but others chose to work through this and be with their colleagues,” she said.

Work is expected to resume as normal today, Fitzsimmons said.

Cal-OSHA will continue its investigation, which could take anywhere from one month to six months to complete, McGuire said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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