I apologize if this has been answered before but I couldn't readily find this question here.

My house was built in the late '80s and all of the light switches have grounding terminals but they are not used. There are regular 14/2 or 12/2 with grounds going in to the electrical boxes but the grounds are just tied off to each other (unless an outlet is present - that atleast is grounded). The boxes themselves are plastic.

Was this ever allowed? Or did the electrician get lazy?

  • AFIK wall switches without a ground screw which were installed when yours were are grandfathered, but you cannot use decorative metal cover plates. You must use non-conducting cover plates. But I wonder if painted metal plates are allowed? We have the old ungrounded switches, and my wife changed out all the plates on the receptacles and switches to painted metal ones. In 10 years this may give a home inspector a chance to declare a deficiency. Jul 12 '18 at 12:03

Proper practice is and was to add a ground pigtail to the fixture (the light switch). On the last outlet in a chain, it's OK to connect ground directly to the light switch.

  • 1
    but i read elsewhere that it only, more recently became required so technically it isn't to code by nowadays standards but doesn't pose an issue and should only be remedied if one is replacing the switch. i take it you are saying that the electrician was lazy?
    – Alex
    Jul 12 '18 at 8:10

In those days it was not required per se, and since I have worked on my home and saw the same as you had observed I had to look and see to my amazement as late as 2010.

In reality they should be connected - if there is a screw ; were the originals with no screw replaced at one time or another? - if it had a screw from what I understand it should have been connected.

See this article:

What year did the NEC (US) require all new construction switches and outlets to have ground screws?

The main quote is this:

The tricky part was, when did switches start "requiring" a grounding screw? That changed only when UL started requiring ground screws on switches, some time around 2010. When there was no ground screw, there was no "required" grounding.


Both Bryce and Ken are correct so +1 to both of you. I just thought I would add a little more explanation to their answers.

First all fixtures and all metal parts must be grounded if installed after 1965. So if they are not you need to ground it. Originally the common belief was that it could be grounded by any method. Meaning you could ground it once at any location as well as use a mounting screw or any metal piece attached to the fixture, much the same way we used to use conduit as the grounding return, and it actually does ground the fixture. But there was always a question as to whether during a fault the over-current would make it back to the panel and trip the breaker.

So overtime, everyone in the industry starts to talk about intrinsically safe or assured grounding. That's when the industry began to modify their opinion and began redefining codes and manufacturers started attaching the tails or stingers to all of the equipment and material being installed. This included the mounting bracket, the fixture itself, and maybe even the lamp sockets.

To conclude, when you open up a fixture you need to determine, if the fixture grounded and safe? Then, what do I need to do to assure the ground is complete? As someone who once was a contractor and doesn't like lawsuits (trust me no money in it) I had policy to ground the crap out of everything.

Hope this helps to put a light on the subject so to speak.

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