This is the big problem with a DIY site - one day someone's going to post something so incredibly wrong it's going to get someone killed. Hopefully the community will jump on it as soon as they see it and recognise it's wrong - but what if they don't?

A minor example is this answer regarding asbestos removal - by the op's own admission the task as as dangerous as smoking cigarettes. And not to mention totally illegal in a lot of places.

What should be done? Should anything be done? Someone who's qualified really needs to be making decisions regarding nuking these kinds of answers, not DIYers.

  • I think this will be an important job for the moderators, they will have to police the site and tag unsafe answers as such. The users also have to take some responsibility here, by not posting answers to questions they know little to nothing about. This is why sometimes the best answer is to tell the asker to consult a professional (see meta question 55).
    – Tester101
    Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 23:55
  • 2
    I posted that answer. I know what I'm talking about in this situation. I monitored dozens of asbestos removal projects. First of all, you took the answer out of context. Secondly, I posted adequate warnings about who could/should do it. Danger is in the eye of the beholder.
    – Peter
    Commented Aug 18, 2010 at 14:35

8 Answers 8


It should be clear in the policies and in the expectations for moderators that it is not the site's or the moderators' job to make sure that answers are correct or safe. Claiming that it is the moderators' job to do such a thing is exactly what causes the problem by moving from an open forum to a publication with editorial control.

Any member (including moderators) should feel free to express concern over the safety of an answer through comments, and we have votes to express our approval or disapproval for an answer. But moderators should not delete answers that are made in good faith, even bad answers. In the end, that has to be the responsibility of the reader.

To Tester101's point, it's worth a reputation point to down-vote an unsafe answer.

  • 2
    +1 The comments and total votes combined should make it clear to anyone who takes more than a passing glance at an answer how good the community thinks it is. Beyond that, it is up to the person seeking an answer to assess whether he is competent to handle the job. ( Remember, while the person asking the question might have worked in construction for 5 years, the person who searches out the answer 2 years from now might have never lifted a hammer before and the community has no way of assessing the talents and capabilities of everyone who finds an answer ) Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 16:54

The same problem has occured on SO.

Due to the "rep-game" people want to answer a question (as quick as possible), even if they don't know the correct answer. And I have seen wrong answers with upvotes (and even accepted).

Luckily these sites are community driven. Members with high rep have the opportunity (some call it duty) to ensure the quality of the site. There are nice tools available:

  • edit the answer.
  • upvote good/better answers or provide one yourself.
  • downvote the answer.
  • give comments on the answer.
  • mark as offensive or spam, if you don't have enough rep. I think offensive is suitable for dangerous answers.
  • flag for moderator assistance if all else fails.

If the community is big enough, the process will be smooth. And the quality will improve with all effort.


My current moderation response (and open to suggestions) is to:

  • Downvote
  • Comment of the potential for danger
  • Edit the post with a bold heading warning of potential danger

It was pointed out in the Town Hall chat that deleting the answers may remove a teaching opportunity of how not to solve a problem. The only time I would delete the answer is if it's clear the answer was not done in good faith and is intentionally trying to spread a dangerous idea.


Liability was also discussed on the cooking site

There were suggestions for something based on tags (in the DIY case, [dangerous]), and putting something in the FAQ to state that you should verify things before doing them.

  • Hey Joe, good to see you on here. Are there any other betas you're involved in? I'm going to do the Personal Finance one when it opens as well. Commented Jul 24, 2010 at 15:44
  • @Mike : I'm on webapps, and waiting for Physics, Astronomy, and Libraries. (but those are actually somewhat related to my work)
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 24, 2010 at 16:57

I agree that users should make every effort to warn other users against potentially dangerous activities but at the same time isn't this already mentioned in the TOS too?

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As an additional idea -- how about a tag that defines the experience required to complete the solution? I've seen this a number of times on how-to books and sites.


If you consider an answer to be bad for whatever reason, including an idea that it may be dangerous, you can downvote it or comment on the answer to state why it may be dangerous. I would recommend only commenting on non-obvious dangers. If the dangers in the method would be obvious to a reader, then pointing them out is more a rant than useful new information. If you see a non-obvious danger in the proposed solution, by all means comment on it.

Do not edit other people's answer in a way that changes their intent or expresses some editorial opinion of yours. That is expressly against SE rules.

The reality here is that most of the questions involve something that is potentially dangerous. Even a hammer is dangerous if used incorrectly. It is contrary to the spirit of the do-it-yourselfer to be going around like a nanny saying this is dangerous or that is dangerous like the OP is some little child.


What about a post notice on the top of the question (or answers)? Here's an example of one that's used on Politics.SE:

Controversial post banner

Mods can apply this banner when a question/answer has been flagged as a safety concern.

For DIY, the text could be something like this:

Warning: This post asks about doing something that requires a trained professional to complete in a safe manner. Do not follow advice given in answers unless you are a trained professional.

I found this meta Q after seeing a number of answers on this question advising OP on how to bypass safety features.


There is a legal issue with this: is anyone liable if the person does follow an answer and it gets them hurt/killed? Is there an appropriate way to have a disclaimer to absolve responsibility?

At the least, we can have a tag 'dangerous'.

It would be nice to make anything tagged 'dangerous' have a large warning at the top of the page (or perhaps even require clicking through a disclaimer to see answers)..

'Dangerous' also means different things to different people.. for example, electrical work CAN be extremely dangerous to someone inexperienced (eg, not knowing how to properly check a wire is not live before cutting it), but that doesn't mean we should kill any questions that have to do with electricity/wiring. Removing a wall can also be dangerous, but again, it doesn't mean it shouldn't be attempted.

While I'd agree asbestos removal is at the far end of the spectrum and is likely dangerous to most people, going so far as to defining a policy of removing answers to 'dangerous' questions is a futile subjective exercise, IMHO.

  • 2
    The best solution here would be to not answer questions if you don't know the answer or can't provide a safe solution, a 10 point rep boost is not worth somebodies life.
    – Tester101
    Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 23:50
  • 1
    @Tester, problem is that some people are experts and because they're experts they forget that person who's not an expert in that field probably doesn't have the skills to do it safely. Commented Jul 24, 2010 at 22:07
  • 2
    @Farseeker: I don't think it will be that difficult for professionals to recognize an amateur question, they will just have to try and tailor their answers according to the posters skill level. obviously somebody asking "I just got a central air unit, how do I install it?" is not an expert, so an answer to them would be completely different than one provided to somebody asking a specific question with obvious knowledge of the job.
    – Tester101
    Commented Jul 26, 2010 at 11:55

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