There’s more to consider than just the ‘aerosol’ effect of brass instruments

Monday 13 July 2020

Following our previous post, Robert Doherty offers some additional observations, gained from his experience as a manufacturing technician in the chemicals industry, which endorse SBBA’s current stance in advising a continued suspension of band gatherings for the time being.

Robert, who is secretary of Unison Kinneil and a tenor horn player of more than 50 years, points out that his views are personal and not an official band response.

On the subject of the so-called ‘aerosol’ effect of brass instruments, he says he has seen YouTube clips in which the airflow from the bell of an instrument doesn’t even move a ping pong ball.

“My take is it’s not the emission from the bell we need to be concerned about,” he comments. “We should be thinking about the wider picture. As humans, we need to take in large volumes of air to make the instrument work and, in doing this, we inhale air from the surrounding area which consists of air exhaled, not just from the instrument, but from the bodies of those sitting around us.

“This is a natural bodily function that we all need to survive and therefore social distancing is a primary mitigating factor in reducing the spread of the virus. In addition, there’s the cross contamination from touching items in the band room like stands etc to consider whereby some kind of effective cleaning procedure would have to be adopted.”

Robert admits that he has been fortunate to be able to work through the pandemic although his way of operating has had to change quite considerably, through revised procedures and the wearing of additional PPE in the workplace.

“We’ve had to constantly be conscious of how we interact on a daily basis, from social distancing – and the use of physical shields like Perspex screens when this can’t be maintained – sanitisation through regular washing and the application of hand gel, and the wearing of face mask or full visor as we go about our duties,” he says.

“Furthermore, we have to perform a risk assessment before carrying out any plant maintenance work and identify any special requirements. While this would be normal practice, COVID-19 has introduced an additional series of hazards we need to consider.”

Robert states: “Hopefully these points might be of interest to whoever maybe involved with the study into the current risk facing brass banding,” he says. “I’m pretty sure others will have their own opinions on this subject.

“I’m not trying to tell people how to suck eggs but on the various social media sites the narrow outlook of some who would return to rehearsals at any cost gives me cause for great concern.”

In percentage terms per head of population, the Forth Valley has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in Scotland. And Bo’ness, where the band is situated, is believed to have an even lower level of infection.

“By doing what we have been asked to do since lockdown, we are making progress to beating this,” Robert adds. “So hopefully we can return to some form of normality sooner rather than later – but only when it is completely safe to do so.”


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