This paper presents an account of corporate strategies for occupational safety and health (OSH) management in container terminals operated by large global companies in four countries, and their delivery in the operation of terminal work activities. It indicates a substantial gap between these aims and approaches, their orientation at corporate and terminal management levels and the workers’ experiences in the terminals. While this gap is evident everywhere, it is considerably more pronounced in the terminals of the low-income country included in the study. The paper indicates that in day-to-day practice, OSH is principally addressed through behaviour control strategies that fail to reach many aspects of occupational health and safety that workers perceive as important. It further indicates that contractor workers are hardest hit by such practice and suggests a radical rethinking of corporate approaches to safety and health is required to justify the claim that they represent ‘corporate core values’.