I think it would be useful to add swap space for 'emergency only' use. So if all physical RAM is free, the kernel starts refusing user space requests for more memory. However if a process wants to fork() the kernel can let it succeed, knowing that in the worst case there is swap space to back its promises.
It is rather a problem that merely adding swap space as available means it can then be used by applications just as willingly as physical RAM. Perhaps a per-process policy flag would say whether an app can have its memory allocation requests start going to swap (as opposed to getting 0 from malloc() when physical RAM is exhausted). Then sysadmins could switch this flag on for particular processes that need it.