Background Workers’ health surveillance (WHS) programs commonly measure a large number of indicators addressing health habits and health risks. Recently, work ability and functional capacity have been included as important risk measures in WHS. In order to address work ability appropriately, knowledge of associations with work and health measures is necessary. The objective of this study was to evaluate which of the factors measured in a WHS are independently associated with work ability in a group of meat processing workers. Methods A cross-sectional study was performed in a large meat processing company in The Netherlands. Data were collected during a WHS between February 2012 and March 2014. Personal characteristics, health habits and health-risk indicators, functional capacity, and work-related factors were measured. Work ability was measured with the Work Ability Index and was used as dependent variable. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were conducted, a receiver operating characteristic curve was constructed and the area under the curve (AUC) was calculated. Results Data sets from 230 employees were used for analyses. The average age was 53Â years and the average work ability index score was 39.3. In the final multivariable model age (OR 0.94), systolic blood pressure (OR 1.03), need for recovery (OR 0.56), and overhead work capacity (OR 3.95) contributed significantly. The AUC for this model was 0.81 (95Â % CI 0.75–0.86). Conclusion Findings from the current study indicate that multifactorial outcomes (age, systolic blood pressure, need for recovery, and overhead work capacity) from a WHS were independently associated with work ability. These factors can be used to assess employees at risk for low work ability and might provide directions for interventions.