In the light of the experience and guidelines developed by other countries and of Italian legislative and operational conditions, the authors outline a strategy for a health surveillance programme for work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limbs. In particular, the paper defines the various aims of the health surveillance programme and identifies significant relevant criteria for its implementation (i.e. existence of risks or effects). A screening schedule is presented based on subsequent investigations (first and second level surveillance); the authors discuss the principal methods used for processing the results of the health surveillance programme, in collective (i.e. statistical comparisons, planning of periodical investigations) and individual terms (job fitness judgements, reporting of suspected occupational diseases).