In 1985, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) convened an ad hoc committee of experts who reviewed the current literature on lifting, recommend criteria for defining lifting capacity, and in 1991 developed a revised lifting equation. Subsequently, NIOSH developed the documentation for the equation and played a prominent role in recommending methods for interpreting the results of the equation. The 1991 equation reflects new findings and provides methods for evaluating asymmetrical lifting tasks, lifts of objects with less than optimal hand-container couplings, and also provides guidelines for a larger range of work durations and lifting frequencies than the 1981 equation. This paper provides the basis for selecting the three criteria (biomechanical, physiological, and psychophysical) that were used to define the 1991 equation, and describes the derivation of the individual components (Putz-Anderson and Waters 1991). The paper also describes the lifting index (LI), an index of relative physical stress, that can be used to identify hazardous lifting tasks. Although the 1991 equation has not been fully validated, the recommended weight limits derived from the revised equation are consistent with or lower than those generally reported in the literature. NIOSH believes that the revised 1991 lifting equation is more likely than the 1981 equation to protect most workers.