Background: European Union (EU) Directive 89/391 addressed occupational health surveillance, which recommends to provide workers with 'access to health surveillance at regular intervals', aiming to prevent work-related and occupational diseases.Aims: To investigate how EU countries adopted this Directive.Methods: We invited one selected representative per member state to complete a questionnaire.Results: All 28 EU countries implemented the Directive in some form. Workers' health surveillance (WHS) is available to all workers in 15 countries, while in 12, only specific subgroups have access. In 21 countries, workers' participation is mandatory, and in 22, the employer covers the cost. In 13 countries, access to WHS is not available to all workers but depends on exposure to specific risk factors, size of the enterprise or belonging to vulnerable groups. In 26 countries, the employer appoints and revokes the physician in charge of WHS. Twelve countries have no recent figures, reports or cost-benefit analyses of their WHS programmes. In 15 countries where reports exist, they are often in the native language.Conclusions: Coverage and quality of occupational health surveillance should be evaluated to facilitate learning from good practice and from scientific studies. We propose a serious debate in the EU with the aim of protecting workers more effectively, including the use of evidence-based WHS programmes.