The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) at L&I in Washington state reached its 50-year anniversary in 2023.
Fifty years ago, in 1973, the Washington state congress passed the Washington Safety and Health Act (WISHA) —just two years after the United States Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
WISHA gives DOSH the authority to ensure employers provide safe and healthful working conditions for workers. As part of that charge, DOSH sets and enforces workplace health and safety standards, and provides training, outreach, education, and assistance to employers to keep workers safe.
DOSH is considered a “state plan” in relation to federal OSHA. That relationship requires DOSH to set rules that are as least as effective as OSHA’s rule and allows Washington the flexibility to set stricter worker protections than OSHA.
Long before there was WISHA, or even OSHA, Washington state took action to ensure worker protection from hazardous conditions. In fact, the original state constitution written in 1889 incorporated protections for workers.
The original constitution stated:
“The legislature shall pass necessary laws for the protection of persons working in mines, factories and other employments dangerous to life or deleterious to health; and fix pains and penalties for the enforcement of the same.”
Washington State’s first workplace safety and health rules followed in 1923.