12 Engineers Talk About the Most Ridiculous Idiot-Proofing They’ve Had to Do at Work

I have a lot of respect for engineers because they are some bright folks.

The rest of us normal folks?

Hmmmm…not so bright, it turns out…

What’s the most ridiculous example of idiot-proofing you’ve been forced to do?

Engineers shared their thoughts on AskReddit.

1. Insane.

“Former Combat Engineer here. We built a 3ft high fence across a mine field including huge red warning triangles every 4ft.

Someone still stepped over it to go take a c**p in the woods. They were carried out on a stretcher. NOTHING is idiot proof.”

2. Please be careful.

“I work for the utility company, mainly in the distribution of natural gas. All of the pipelines we put into the ground are either yellow, or black and yellow, and only gas is allowed to use yellow for their pipes.

Some of them have “natural gas” printed on them in big bold letters. We put special tape about 20cm above the pipeline to indicate that there is a gas pipeline below and whomever is digging there should be careful.

All these precautions and warnings, and we still get daily incidents from idiots who were digging somewhere, and hit a gas pipeline.”

3. Signs.

“I’m late the party but… I design highway signs.

People think signs are just placed willynilly and are spray painted on plywood. Nope. What they say, where they’re placed, the material they’re made from are all carefully engineered and based on mathematical equations for how well an average someone is able to:

Read the text / pictograph

React to what the sign depicts, whether it’s directions, stop signs, or warning you there’s falling rocks.

Placing too many signs overstimulates drivers and causes informational overload, tons of roadside objects also actually create a roadside hazard. Not every stupid thing drivers do can be solved with signs.

My job pretty much revolves around trying to idiot-proof roads to the point where no reasonable person acting within a reasonable way should get in an accident by following the road’s speed limit and warning signs.

Also, please never steal a sign.”

4. Pointers.

“Industrial designer here. You have no idea how many “pointers” I have to add to the products I make.

I had to add arrows to a product that had two pieced tht the client could put together and remove for cleanup. It was designed to that it could only fit into one position and it was made very obvious which position that was (think a larger shape in hole).

No, I still had to put two arrows in case people couldn’t tell the bigger bump could only fit in the bigger gap.”

5. Come on, people!

“Ever write any software? The amount of error checking you have to do on any user input is phenomenal.

No matter how much explanation you provide, users seem to be chimpanzees entering stuff seemingly at random.”

6. Oh, boy…

“Outside Plant Engineer here, in 1996 we were put on an all hands “Fix Utah” project. The Olympics were coming, and all of Utah’s planners and engineers were working on that, and we were to pick up the slack on the day-to-day jobs that needed to be worked.

I had finished one job, a simple buried straight line copper distribution, no big deal. I finished it up, and they told me to run it by Randy, the senior OSP engineer from Utah. I got the job back, with a note to allocate money for custom armored plating for the pedestals (the green ugly things in your front or backyards).

Because apparently the locals use them for target practice, and the armor had to withstand a direct hit from a 30-06.

Never had to do that anywhere else I worked, but I haven’t worked everywhere, yet.”

7. You can’t engineer around stupid.

“Way back when, I designed a product that had a optional battery module that was meant to connect to a main module.

To assemble the battery module to the main module, you had to put the round peg in the round hole and the square peg in the square hole. That’s it. I even put a f**king sticker with instructions on the back on the battery module.

Even so, we still had around 1% of clients that couldn’t figure it out this puzzle. One particular client had used a hammer to force the module together the wrong way.

An other had tried to solder wires through the holes and pegs. An other didn’t understand that he had to connect the battery module to the main module for the former to power the latter.

You can’t engineer around stupid. There’s no “worst case”. It goes all the way down pass 0 to minus infinity.”

8. Really?

“When designing hardware for the exterior of the ISS, you’re prohibited from making anything with holes of a certain size, so that the astronauts don’t get their fingers stuck.”

9. Had to do it.

“Structural engineer.

When designing a handwheel for a door on a ship, we had to intentionally design the handwheel to break before the shaft, because we can’t trust idiots to not spin it as hard as they possibly can, destroying the entire door in the process.”

10. So stupid!

“Electrical engineer in the building industry.

Started putting wiring diagrams on the blueprints for how to wire emergency lighting battery packs because sometimes when I did an inspection, I would find lights that either never turned off or would go into emergency mode and drain the battery every time you turned off the lights… because someone was too stupid to not read the simple instructions that came with the battery pack.”

11. FYI.

“Every computer at my previous workplace had stickers stating “do not strike with hammer”

We are skilled auto technicians, but some of us are old school when it comes to troubleshooting.”

12. Some people…

“Worked for a fireplace company when they had to start adding big stickers on our gas and wood fireplaces that say (paraphrased, but not far off) “CAUTION: FIREPLACE EXTREMELY HOT WHEN IN USE.”

They were sued all the time for people getting burned, for things such as (but not limited to)

Touching burning logs (fireplace tools sold separately)

Allowing children to place hand on fireplace glass (gas)

Melting / breaking TVs that were mounted on top without proper clearances / hardware

Burning house down or other damage from admitted misuse.

To give some context to the last one..

Storing dry wood in front of the fireplace

Storing camp fuel in plastic containers in front of fireplace

Changed log placement (gas) then discovered soot all over their room (You must do it the way they say, period)

Tried to use the wrong gas type (LP/NG).”

Have you ever had to do any idiot-proofing at your job or in your house?

If so, tell us all about it in the comments.

Thanks in advance!