17

Sometimes a question is asked and it fills me with worry for the person asking the question. Less frequently I'll see something suggested as an answer which is potentially fraught with danger.

Examples include things like people going under cars supported only on a jack. People messing about with fuel under pressure. People doing things with vehicle electrics that cause sparks or overload circuits / wiring. There are probably more examples.

On stackoverflow, if someone does something in computer code that doesn't work, it may delete some vital data. If one of our members does something wrong, it could seriously and permanently injure them. So, should we have some sort of process to flag something is potentially dangerous, maybe a "Proceed with extreme caution" and a link to information about safe working practices which can be applied to any contribution quickly and without the need for prior group approval?

11

I strongly endorse providing detailed critical feedback about personal risks that people are taking. Unfortunately, there's no way to predict all the possible ways that someone can put themselves in danger with complex equipment in an unknown environment. A million years ago, I tried to list some basic equipment to help avoid the most obvious ways to auto-Darwinate.

None of those would help another situation (which I can't locate quickly) where a user was wondering how to monitor their fuel pressure and wanted to locate the gauge inside the cabin. As this was going to be a gauge fed by live fuel, not a sender, I recommended that they not run the risk of creating a mixture of pressurized fuel, people and oxygen inside their car....

This is one of the areas where expertise and hard-learned lessons can really help people. Keep an eye out and chime in: there's a real chance that you could save lives here.

EDIT: found an example of where I was trying to answer the question while also saying "Do not do the thing that you are trying to do, even if you are super duper sure it will all be fine."

10

On Skeptics.SE and Politics.SE (that I know of), they have banners for questions and answers that pertain to current events or the need for citations.

Examples of Other SEs

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

(Source)

This question is about a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

(Source)

Proposal

We could ask for a banner on Support for banners? that the mods could apply to both questions and answers that may contain blatant safety issues.

My example text (You can completely reword this; it's just an example.):

Warning! The practices or procedures in this post may have a serious risk of bodily harm. Only attempt these if you are professionally competent in this area. See General Safety Guidelines.

Note

(If you guys support this,) Before we post anything to Meta.SE, we should really hammer out the idea here. We only get one chance there and a half-baked idea will get shredded.

  • 3
    I think this is a great idea. Really good add here, Zach! – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 23 '16 at 15:38
  • 1
    This is great. I think the problem needs to be addressed and this give us a way to do it using "existing technology" – though I still think we also need a way to "confer" on safety issues. If we could get a new flag, I think that would be the "right" way to do it, but if not we could use a tag to "collect" safety related concerns. – dlu Dec 23 '16 at 16:44
4

I agree that there should be something - I usually downvote any answer that suggests an unsafe practice (a comment saying why helps too), and try to make sure my own answers always address safety (especially regarding properly jacking and supporting a vehicle).

Perhaps it need a canonical question that can be linked to, as we've done with some other subjects?

3

This might be moving into the realm of a feature request…

I think it would be very handy to have a small set of flags, something along the lines of:

  • I'm wondering if there are safety concerns here (used by a poster).
  • Use caution (minor injuries, damage to expensive parts, waste of time/energy/material).
  • Warning there are dangers here
  • Could get you killed

Using the flags would allow us to quickly indicate a potential problem, and would serve to focus attention on the problem areas, without demanding a lot of time.

The flags could also "set a bar" for answers and/or be used to potentially hide answers with lots of "Could get you killed" flags until the issue was addressed.

I think we're (reasonably) headed to that murky place where there could be so much CYA safety warnings that you can hardly find the answer to the question in the barrage of warnings. If there was a flagging system for safety issues then I think we could avoid some of that and also separate tasks a bit (for example when someone can answer the theory part of a question, but doesn't know about (or how to write about) the safety issues involved).

3

As an interim step, could we create some safety related tags maybe just three to get started:

  • SafetyIssuesP: used to ask "Are there unusual / specific-to-this-question safety concerns to be aware of?"

  • SafetyAlert: used when a question (or some of its answers) raises specific safety concerns which are not addressed yet – read it as "proceed with care at your own risk."

  • SafetyWarning: used to say "be sure to read the related safety points as well."

I envision the first two as being used to flag items for safety related follow up. It would be really nice if we could add specific safety related markup with a button in the editor to format it.

1

My own feeling about this, is that modifying somebody else's post, scolding the OP or vandalizing a question with banners is very impolite at best and could be construed as censorship or patronizing nannyism.

The proper way to address to safety issues:

(1) If the question EXPLICITLY describes doing something unsafe in a way that might not be obvious to the reader, then the proper thing to do is to make a comment: "It may be unsafe to do XYZ because... etc".

(2) If the activity is obviously unsafe, no need to make a comment because it is OBVIOUSLY unsafe, unless you want to suggest an unobvious alternative. Just screaming THIS IS UNSAFE !!! when it is obviously unsafe is non-productive. The point of comments is to give readers new information, not scold the OP.

(3) Write an answer that describes safe procedures to solve the problem.

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