Container terminals are critical nodes in the globalisation of trade. Many are operated by global companies with strong corporate rhetoric espousing zero tolerance of injury and ill-health. Yet operational practices often contribute to the intensification of work and outsourcing of labour; conditions associated with poor safety and health. Serious and fatal injuries and ill-health continue to occur in these terminals. With reference to the findings of a study of occupational safety and health (OSH) arrangements in terminals operated by four of the largest operators, key contextual determinants in the terminals’ labour relations and regulatory environments that influence practice and outcomes are identified. The influences are compared in different national settings and, the paper finds, like multinational companies generally, global operators are obliged to adapt and reflect local contexts. In relation to OSH best practice, a critical influence is the way that local context acts to constrain and challenge business logics and interests. This acts to make 'best practice' more likely where companies are constrained in this way, regardless of the claims of their corporate rhetoric.