Wiring a Dimmer Switch (3 way)

Greetings. I bought a dimmer switch to replace the standard light switch in my kitchen. I identified that it needed to be a 3 way switch since there are multiple locations to turn these lights on/ off. When I removed the current switch, I noticed that the bare copper ground coming out of the wall isn't connected to anything - it's just covered in a plaster-esque substance. Is this a hazard? Should I be concerned? If this is a problem, would it simply trip the breaker, or should I be worried about a fire?
Thanks! Zac
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If your new switch has a location for a ground go ahead and connect it.
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Romex (which I'm guessing was used in your installation) carries a ground wire. (Well, halfway recent Romex does...) Often at the switch end of the cable there's nothing to attach this ground to. A thoughtful electrician will at least leave it in place at that end, and ground it at the other, so that future components have an available ground. This is not a problem at all.
If your replacement switch has a ground terminal, use this wire to ground it, but first I'd check to make sure it's connected to ground (at the other end of the cable).
photoflavor wrote:

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If the box is metal, it should have been connected by a screw or clip. If the box is plastic, it should be attached to the grounding conductor of the device you install. As Bob Barr suggested, you should verify that it's connected at the other end.

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