Train to engage

White Dog International director Wesley Dobbin tells Safe to Work how he caters his training programs to the individual differences between mine sites.

Technical and industry knowledge is no longer the only ingredient to a successful trainer – it takes skills to bypass social and cultural differences and instil a culture of prevention for people who are going to be most affected by mine undertakings.

People are, after all, the biggest opportunity to make safety improvements.

Level of education, place of origin and literacy are some differences that a trainer must deal with when it comes to training a diverse set of workers.

In overcoming these challenges, White Dog International (WDI) director Wesley Dobbin, who has spent the past 12 years training mine workers around the world, would discover the best approach to use according to the country he was in.

Wesley Dobbin (L) says keeping workers engaged is important to the success of a training program.
Wesley Dobbin (L) says keeping workers engaged is important to the success of a training program.


Starting off in Australia, Dobbin has spent 22 years in the mining industry. More than half that time he was supervising workers at mine sites in Tanzania, Ghana, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea.

“English may not necessarily, and usually isn’t, these workers’ first language. So I have to look at different avenues to ensure the workers receive the most out of their training,” Dobbin says.

“By working with the guys, developing and reviewing their site procedures and observing how they respond to what I show them helps me see what they take on board.”

This is important to engage the workers and allows them to take ownership of safety procedures that are designed for their protection.

Dobbin, for example, makes use of visual aids, provides workers with hands-on practical training and spends one-on-one time with struggling workers to help them move along training programs.

The director also shares his real-life experiences to bridge the gap between a trainer and his students and to build relatability with them.

“I’ve found that trying to establish the work culture from the start in new mine sites is really paramount and beneficial, because they start with the right technique and with the right attitude toward safety. This makes training a lot easier,” Dobbin says.

“When you come to an established mine where their work culture has already been set up for years, it’s challenging to unwind that and get the workers into new patterns and up to standard.”

Dobbin says WDI’s training programs can be tailored to target specific problem areas at the mine site, designed to ensure that workers demonstrate their confidence in the field. The program provides workers with specific goals, field strategies and checklists to go through.

White Dog International trains miners to work safely in confined spaces. Image: White Dog International
White Dog International trains miners to work safely in confined spaces.


As a registered training organisation (RTO) in Australia, WDI offers comprehensive training programs, including working at heights, conducting basic scaffolding operations, skid steer loader operations, gas test atmospheres, excavator operations and more.

“Ultimately, you have to mould the training to suit the learner,” Dobbin says. “At the start you can use things like literacy and numeracy tests to know where they sit, because a lot of these workers may have not completed high school.

“In developing countries, workers are often sourced from the surrounding villages. That’s why it is beneficial to customise the training packages and make them more practical through hands-on training.”

According to Dobbin, it is imperative to make workers concentrate on the high-risk factors that may cause fatalities, instead of getting bogged down in things like ensuring workers have a pair of safety gloves clipped on the side of their belt, for example. WDI literally designs its training programs to give workers a fresh pair of eyes to see what the real hazards are.

“It’s about taking a step back and looking at the big picture,” Dobbin says. “Because once you’re immersed in the day-to-day tasks, you quite often miss things that may be a real hazard.”

Noting the recent shift of mine sites into digitalisation, the use of integrated software programs and automation systems, Dobbin says there’s always going to be a human factor that needs to be managed.

“People are humans. They make mistakes. My team and I have seen a lot of accidents throughout our experience in mine sites. We’ve all been around for about 20 years-plus, so we’ve seen a lot. We’ve seen safety systems change over the years, and we incorporate all these into our training,” Dobbin says.

“This is about real-life situation in a high-risk industry. It’s a dangerous game. And training is about asking the guys about their own experiences, getting through to them and keeping them involved. Training is about the delivery.”

This article also appears in the Jan–Mar edition of Safe to Work.

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