WISHA and OSHA: The differences between Federal and Washington State Safety Regulations

Categories: Construction, OSHA

OSHA explained in simple terms

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is a set of federally regulated laws that require each employer to provide an environment for employees that is free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical injury to employees, and that each employee shall comply with these standards that apply to their actions and conduct. OSHA creates and enforces these laws which apply to all states in the nation.

WISHA explained in simple terms

WISHA is the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act. This became the first fully operational state safety and health plan approved by the federal government of the United States. These regulations apply to Washington state and are a more specific and detailed set of rules that detail and amplify the OSHA laws.

What is DOSH?

DOSH is the Division of Occupational Safety and Health in the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). DOSH develops and enforces safe and healthy rules by inspecting worksites for unsafe working conditions, but they also provide free on-site consultations to help employers create safe and healthy workplaces. They also provide free training, safety, and health programs, and provide resources to help prevent, find, and fix hazards. Until 2006, DOSH was called WISHA Services.


Often, states that have similar laws to WISHA, address some hazards not regulated by OSHA. Therefore, typically the state laws will be more stringent and specific than the more general federal OSHA regulations but must be “at least as effective as” federal standards.

Over 23 states have developed regulations that cover all workers. Many states have passed rules that address specific industries. Four states, including Washington, are responsible for state occupational safety and health hazards plans (the other three are Oregon, California, and Michigan).

WISHA and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries have provided tools to help explain hazards and hazard avoidance, including downloadable apps to help workers calculate how much they can safely lift, push, and pull.