The number of native Dutch and Turkish workers receiving a permanent disability pension in the Netherlands is still rising. To assess ethnic differences in disability risk between Dutch and Turkish scaffolders, a retrospective study was conducted within a large scaffolding company. Medical files for the period 1981-2000 were used to gather information on ethnicity, age at entering service, age at becoming disabled, years of employment, the year to receive a disability pension, the disability diagnosis, and the percentage rating of the disability pension. In the past 20 yr, 131 Turkish and 125 Dutch scaffolders have become disabled. Musculoskeletal disorders were the primary reason for the diagnosis. No differences in diagnoses were observed, except for a small difference in cardiovascular disease. Turkish scaffolders started their work at an older age, received the disability pension at an older age, and had a longer duration of employment. Turkish scaffolders faced disability 2.48 (95% confidence interval 1.94-3.18) times more often than their Dutch colleagues, adjusted for age. Explanations for the differences in disability risk between Dutch and Turkish scaffolders are sought in the older age at start of employment, lower mobility in the labour market, and less access to medical and social care. In future, employers, general practitioners, occupational health physicians and social security workers, as stakeholders in reintegration, should sufficiently attune their activities concerning care and cure for Turkish construction workers on long-term sick leave or during reintegration into other work.