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Self-reported occupational histories are an important means for collecting historical data in epidemiological studies. An occupational history calendar (OHC) has been developed for use alongside a national occupational hazard surveillance tool. This study presents the systematic development of the OHC and compares work histories collected via this calendar to those collected via a traditional questionnaire.The paper describes the systematic development of an OHC for use in the general working population. A comparison of data quality and recall was undertaken in 51 participants where both tools were administered.The OHC enhanced job recall compared with the traditional questionnaire. Good agreement in the data captured by both tools was observed, with the exception of hazard exposures.A calendar approach is suitable for collecting occupational histories from the general working population. Despite enhancing job recall the OHC approach has some shortcomings outweighing this advantage in large-scale population surveillance. Am. J. Ind. Med. 54:21-31, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.