Rulemaking Process

After laws, or statutes, are passed by the state Legislature and signed by the Governor, they are compiled in the Revised Code of Washington, or RCWs. Rules to carry out those laws — which are sometimes called regulations and sometimes called WACs, for the Washington Administrative Code — are adopted by agencies through a process mandated in law by Washington’s Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The APA sets out exactly what steps an agency has to follow to adopt rules. 

Permanent Rulemaking

The same basic process is used to adopt, amend, or repeal a rule. It has three formal steps:

Step 1: Notice of intent to change, adopt, or repeal a rule.

The first step is called a pre-notice inquiry. An agency files a notice (Pre-proposal Statement of Inquiry) with the Office of the Code Reviser explaining that it is considering a rule adoption or amendment. The Code Reviser then publishes the notice in the Washington State Register (Register), which is published twice a month. The Register is available at the Code Reviser website.

The agency also sends copies of the pre-notice inquiry, either electronically or in hard copy, to any person who has asked for such notice. Agencies may have a public meeting where interested parties can comment on the proposal, or they may request written comments only at this stage. The agency will take any comments it receives into consideration as it decides whether to go forward with the rulemaking.

Step 2: Proposed new or revised rule language.

If the agency decides to go forward with rulemaking, it will develop a draft considering all the comments it has received. Agencies may also involve the public through meetings with interested parties, surveys, circulating working drafts, or forming drafting committees. The drafting process can take anywhere from months to years before the agency proposes the rule for formal comment. During this time an agency must also decide if the rule proposal will require a “small business economic impact statement.”

This statement is required if a rule will impose more than minor costs on business or industry, or if the legislative Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee requests a statement. If possible, the agency must reduce the costs that the rule imposes on small businesses. This requirement does not apply to costs imposed by legislation or by court directive. Some rules, called “significant legislative rules”, require a more detailed analysis to be done. These rules require that the agency make a more complete explanation of why it is proposing this rule, including performing a qualitative and quantitative cost-benefit analysis of the proposal.

When the agency believes it has developed a final rule, it files a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” and a copy of the proposed rule with the Code Reviser, which is published in the Register. The agency also sends the notice to interested parties and schedules a public hearing at which anyone can make comments about the proposal. Written comments can also be submitted to the agency. After the hearing, the agency considers the comments and makes any changes it thinks necessary to the proposed rule. If the changes are substantial, the agency may revise the draft rule, file another Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, send out a new notice, and hold another hearing.

Prior to the adoption of the rule, the agency also prepares a document called a “concise explanatory statement.” This statement summarizes the agency’s reasons for adopting the rule, any comments received on the rule proposal, and the agency’s responses to those comments.

Step 3: Final Adoption of the Rule.

When the agency is ready, it will adopt the rule. The rule adoption is not a public process, but consists of filing the final rule, along with the “Rulemaking Order” with the Code Reviser. Rules normally become effective 31 days after they are filed. The Code Reviser publishes the order and the final rule in the Register. The agency normally sends a notice to its stakeholders that it has adopted the rule.

Agencies can use an “expedited process” to adopt, repeal, or amend rules in certain limited circumstances.

Expedited Rulemaking

Generally this process is available if:

  • The rule applies only to internal government operations;
  • The rule incorporates only federal or state law or other agency rules;
  • The rule is correcting only typographical errors, making name or address changes, or clarifying the language of a rule without changing its effect;
  • The rule is explicitly and specifically dictated by statute; or
  • The rule was developed through negotiated or pilot rulemaking.

In the expedited process, the agency files the proposed rule with the Code Reviser for publication in the Register, and sends the notice to interested parties, but no hearing is scheduled. If any person objects to the expedited process within forty-five days of publication, the agency considers the notice to be the same as the proposal notice used in the basic rulemaking process, and it must complete the rulemaking using the basic process detailed above.

Emergency Rulemaking

The “emergency rulemaking process” may be used when a rule is needed before the standard rulemaking process can be completed. To use this process, an agency must find, with good cause, that the immediate adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule is necessary for the preservation of public health, safety, or general welfare, or that state or federal law or rule, or a federal deadline for receipt of funds, requires immediate adoption of a rule.

Emergency rules do not require public notice or hearing. They usually take effect when filed with the Code Reviser. Emergency rules can remain in effect for up to 120 days after filing. An agency can re-file the emergency rule if the agency has started the permanent rulemaking process or conditions have changed.

Rulemaking Petition

Anyone may petition L&I to adopt, amend, or repeal a rule by sending a letter or using the petition form. Mail or email petitions to the L&I rules coordinator at L&I has 60 days to accept or reject the petition, and if the request is accepted, the regular rulemaking process is started. 


Rulemaking Terms

Some common rulemaking terms. See also the rulemaking process.

Administrative Procedure Act (APA)

A state law that lays down specific steps state agencies must follow to ensure their rules are the result of a fair and open public process. Learn more.


The date an agency formally accepts changes to its rules as proposed under a CR-102 or CR-105. This is different from the effective date of a rule. See definition below.


A change to an existing rule.


Every rule in Washington State's administrative code (WAC) has an identifying number.

For example:

WAC 296-24-100 (a) (i)

  • 296: Title
  • 24: Chapter
  • 100: Section
  • (a) (i): Subsection

Office of the Code Reviser (OCR)

An office of the Washington State Legislature. One of its duties is to organize and publish the official laws and administrative rules of Washington State.


When a state law or rule is assigned a unique number and included in either the Washington Administration Code (WAC rules) or the Revised Code of Washington (RCW laws).

Concise Explanatory Statement

A state agency's explanation for adopting a new rule, including a description of how and why it was created or changed from the original. It also includes a summary of public comments and how the agency considered them.


When an agency announces that it is allowing more time for public comment, changing the date and/or location of a public hearing, adding more hearing locations, or holding hearings at a later date. This is done by filing a new CR-102.

Core Rules

The basic workplace safety and health rules all employers need to follow, except for agricultural businesses. Learn more.

Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA)

An assessment of the benefits and costs of a proposed rule on all industries that may be affected by it. Rulemaking cannot continue unless the analysis shows that the probable benefits of the rule are likely to outweigh its costs.

The CBA is updated as needed and finalized when the rules are adopted.

The Code Reviser (CR) Forms

View the Process tab on this page to learn how to participate when L&I adds or change rules.

  1. CR–101 Form (Preproposal Statement of Inquiry)
    The form L&I uses to give the public early notice that they are considering a change to an administrative rule. It is meant to give interested parties a chance to participate early on in the process.
  2. CR–102 Form (Proposed Rulemaking)
    The form L&I uses to give the public more detailed information about a proposed rule, announce hearing dates, and invite public comment.
  3. CR–103E Form (Rulemaking Order of Adoption – Emergency Rule)
    The form L&I uses to notify the public that a rule has been adopted on an emergency basis which includes the adopted language. It may be effective for up to 120 days and can take effect immediately or at a later date.
  4. CR–103P Form (Rulemaking Order of Adoption – Permanent Rule)
    The form L&I uses to notify the public that a rule has been adopted, which includes adopted language. The form also includes the date the rule becomes effective, or when the rules benefits, standards, or compliance begins.
  5. CR–105 Form (Expedited Rulemaking)
    The form L&I uses to notify the public that it is considering adopting a rule using an expedited rulemaking process. These usually involve uncontroversial changes to existing rules such as incorporating a federal or state statute or making typographical corrections. See the Process tab on this page for Rulemaking Process: Expedited Rulemaking.


A policy or procedure that directs the staff of L&I's Division of Occupational Safety & Health.

Effective Date

The date a rule's benefits or standards begin, or when compliance is expected. An effective date is usually 31 days after an agency files the rule. (An emergency rule usually goes into effect immediately.) This is different from the adoption date. See definition above.

Federal Identical Rule

When a state agency adopts a federal regulation without substantial changes into state rules.


The process of sending a document, such as a Code Reviser form or rule language, to the Office of the Code Reviser where they are stamped with the date, time, and Washington State Register (WSR) number. Filed documents are the published in the Washington State Register to help the public participate in an agency's rulemaking.

Housekeeping Rule

A correction to a typographical, grammatical, gender, or spelling error, or to update an address or name change in a rule, or which changes its format.

Interpretive Statement

An interpretive statement is created when an agency wants to communicate its interpretation of its own laws and rules, or of a court decision. Interpretive statements may be used to shape future rulemaking as well.

Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee (JARRC)

A bipartisan, joint (Senate-House) legislative committee responsible for reviewing agency rules to determine if they are supported by law.

Law (also statute)

A requirement:

  • Created in the state constitution;
  • Passed by the Legislature, and codified;


  • Due to a court decision that interprets Washington law.

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) contains all permanent laws in Washington State.

National Consensus Rule

When a state agency adopts a rule that is based on a national consensus code or industry standard such as the National Electrical Code (NEC).


How stakeholders ask agencies to adopt, amend, or repeal a rule. Agencies must respond to petitions within 60 days. See the Process tab on this page for Rulemaking Process: Rulemaking Petition.

Policy Statement

An agency may create a policy statement to explain how it plans to carry out its own laws and rules or a court order. This is different from an interpretive statement. See definition above.

Public Hearings Officer (also known as Presiding Officer)

An agency employee assigned to conduct a public hearing on a proposed rule on behalf of the director.

Promulgate (promulgation, promulgated)

Means to announce, declare, or circulate a law or rule through:

  • An executive order


  • A bill passed by the Legislature


  • One of 5 agency rulemaking orders (CR 101-105)

Public hearing and comment period

A public hearing is a formal agency meeting that is publicized and open to all who want to testify on a proposed rule. Anyone may submit comments to L&I about the proposal, before the hearing, or as stated on the CR-102 form.

Regulatory Fairness Act (RFA) (Chapter 19.85 RCW)

A state law that requires agencies to review all proposed rules for their potential impact on small businesses. Agencies must decide whether a rule will impose more than minor costs to small businesses and, if so, how the agency will work to reduce those costs.


To remove a rule section from the Washington Administrative Code (WAC).


A rule or law issued by a federal regulatory agency. See Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).


A requirement or standard adopted by a state agency that:

  • Imposes penalties on violators.
  • Establishes or revokes a requirement relating to a benefit or privilege.
  • Establishes or revokes a standard relating to a benefit.
  • Establishes or revokes a requirement relating to issuing or revoking a license.
  • Further clarifies or explains an RCW.


The process an agency uses to develop, adopt, or repeal a rule.


Every rule in Washington State's administrative code (WAC) has an identifying number.

For example:

WAC 296-24-100 (a) (i)

  • 296: Title
  • 24: Chapter
  • 100: Section
  • (a) (i): Subsection

Semi-annual Rules Development Agenda

On January 31 and July 31 of each year, all state agencies are required to notify the public of all proposed rule changes they plan to be working on for the next six months. View the semi-annual rules development agenda.

Significant Legislative Rule

A significant legislative rule is one that:

  • Changes agency policy and affects the rights, benefits, or privileges of an individual;
  • Penalizes or sanctions individuals for violating the rule; or
  • Changes requirements for issuing, suspending, or revoking a license or a permit.

Small Business Economic Impact Statement (SBEIS)

A document that analyzes the impact of agency rules on small businesses. It is required when an agency anticipates a proposed rule would impose disproportionate cost on small business, or when requested by the Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee (JARRC). This document is required under the Regulatory Fairness Act.


A standard is the term used to refer to some rules or regulations, primarily those that set criteria for compliance under safety and health or wage and hour laws.


Anyone who may be affected by or is interested in a rulemaking. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Boards and commissions, such as the Electrical Board
  • Business, industry, and trade associations
  • Employers
  • Employees
  • Federal agencies (for example, OSHA)
  • General public
  • Labor organizations representing employees
  • L&I staff
  • Legislators
  • Other interested organizations
  • Other states
  • Other state agencies
  • Regulated community

Supplemental Notice

A supplemental notice informs interested parties that significant changes are being made to a rule proposed on a CR-102 form. It reopens the rulemaking proceedings for additional public comment on the substantive changes.


Every rule in Washington State's administrative code (WAC) has an identifying number.

For example:

WAC 296-24-100 (a) (i)

  • 296: Title
  • 24: Chapter
  • 100: Section
  • (a) (i): Subsection

Washington Administrative Code (WAC)

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) contains all permanent rules adopted by state agencies in Washington.

Washington State Register (WSR)

Where documents related to all state agency rule filings are published. This includes all CR-101 to CR-105 forms, rulemaking withdrawals, public meeting notices, policy memos, executive orders, and Washington State Supreme Court rules.