Wildfire Smoke Rule

Wildfire Smoke

A study of the Washington state Wildfire Smoke Rule to protect outdoor worker health funded by the UW Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies

DEOHS MS student, Lilian Liu was awarded the UW Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies' 2021-22 Washington State Labor Research Grant for the study, "Assessing Stakeholder Engagement in Labor Policy: The Washington Emergency Rule to Protect Workers from Wildfire Smoke".

Wildfire smoke has increasing affected air quality in Washington state, raising concerns for outdoor worker safety. In September of 2020, much of the state was impacted by a major smoke episode, which motivated the development of new worker protection rules. On July 16, 2021, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (LNI) filed an “emergency rule” that increases protection for outdoor workers exposed to smoke. Different from existing rules that protect firefighters, the new rule aimed to protect those in many industries that rely upon outdoor workers, such as those in agriculture, logging, construction, public works, and utilties.

Because the current rule was released as an "emergency rule", there is a need to evaluate the pros/cons of the current rule to inform future development of a permanent rule. The more permanent rule may be discussed in 2022.


Project goals

The study will assess stakeholders’ input on the LNI’s rule-making process and evaluate reactions to the new emergency rule in the upcoming wildfire season. This project utilizes interviews, surveys, and content analysis and asks:

  1. What motivated the rule development, and what positions did labor and industry organizations have on the rule?
  2. How important were similar rules from other states in Washington rule establishment?
  3. What were the potential challenges in emergency rule implementation this year, and did stakeholders feel it was effective in worker protection?
  4. To what extent was equity considered in the rule development and implementation given the overlapping concerns of essential work, the COVID-19 pandemic, and disproportionate risks for people of color in smoke-affected communities and industries?


Participate in the survey

If you employ, supervise, or participate in outdoor work in Washington state, and are 18 years or older, you are eligible to participate in the study. The survey is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.  The deadline for completing the survey is Jan 15, 2022.

Are you an outdoor worker/supervisor in Washington State?  To participate, access the survey here

¿Trabaja/supervisa al aire libre en el estado de Washington?  Para participar acceda a la encuesta aquí

您是在华盛顿州的户外工作者/管理者吗?  要参与,请在此处访问调查


Or type this link in your web browser: https://redcap.link/3t1vhskj

Or scan this QR code:

qrcode for survey



Study Findings

After the interview and survey data have been collected and analyzed, the findings will be reported back here.

Please check back in Feb 2022 for updates and findings from the study. The findings will also be reported to WA Department of Labor and Industries to inform the development of the permanent rule.



University of Washington: Lilian Liu, MS Student: ziqi@uw.edu.

University of Washington, Faculty Advisor: Edmund Seto, Associate Professor: eseto@uw.edu.



Background Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash