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Marion Kiely
The Story

Upstream is a positively different Health & Safety consultancy which focuses on employee wellbeing and bringing about positive changes as to how work is done within organisations.  This adds great value to the overall businesses we serve, and sparks innovation and engagement when embraced and supported by leadership teams within organisations.

One of my favourite quotes is that “even dead fish go with the flow”.  Upstream’s branding is built around this quote, and I feel it shows resilience, going against the current, not just going with the flow for the sake of it.   The thinking is that by tackling problems at source (upstream) we prevent them becoming even bigger problems downstream. It is very much in line with the upstream analogy in public health, which is centred on primary intervention.

There is a lot of symbolism in my logo.  The fish symbolises the ‘Salmon of Knowledge’, a story from Irish mythology, and that represents one of my core values - education.  The salmon also represents resilience by going upstream to spawn.  The heart represents health, and it is at the centre of it all.  Without health the rest falls asunder, and the colour and vibrancy goes...  The ripple of water represents wellbeing and for me symbolises mindfulness.  The logo in itself is about nature, an ever-evolving complex adaptive system, and that represents the view I believe we need to take of our organisations today...

Best advice given

"BELIEVE !! Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it".  After attending my first Pendulum Summit in 2015 I e-mailed Frankie Sheehan, the founder of Pendulum Summit, to thank him for organising such an inspirational event.  Deepak Chopra spoke that year and he left a huge impression on me about working towards what he termed my ‘infinite potential’, that’s where the seeds were sown for starting my own business.  I mentioned that to Frankie in the e-mail & his response is outlined above, wise advice indeed…

Business day

Keep it simple, don’t over complicate it.  Perfectionism is undesirable, it leads to too much procrastination & time wasting. 

Mind yourself...

By surrounding myself with people who will encourage and challenge me when needs be, and by prioritising social interaction on a regular basis. 

It is worth pointing out that as well as my work in Upstream, I lecture part time in Middlesex University in London two days per week on undergraduate and post graduate programmes.  That sees me travelling over and back to the UK regularly.  I absolutely love the interaction with students and fellow lecturers.  We look a lot at the psychology of occupational health & safety, and the importance of emotional intelligence and softer skills.   This role is ideal as it provides much job satisfaction and an opportunity to influence a new wave of safety professionals to look at health & safety from a new perspective.  I have been a guest lecturer in UCC this past few years also in the area of Work Related Stress. 

I find these roles provide a real positive element, as there is much social interaction which helps balance the times when I might work alone preparing materials for workshops/audits/reports/etc... The social aspect is something that I have come to see real value in, and is something that I actively seek with a view to minding myself in business.

“There are currants for cakes and reasons for everything”.  This was an old saying of my grandmothers, and I find it is so fitting for our mindfulness revolution (for want of a better expression) of today.  Sometimes things may strike us as peculiar, and our thoughts can create stories that lead to emotional upset for us, and we may find out at a later stage some logical reason for that out of character behaviour of someone.  Today we call it ‘watching the gap’, recognising potential triggers and not taking our thoughts as gospel.  My grandmother was ahead of her time on the mindfulness front I think 

Best advice outside business
Proudest moment

Being asked by one of the world leaders in ‘Safety Differently’ to co-host an event with them in Dublin last year, which I did last October…

I hold Art of Work in very high esteem, and we have parallels in our approach to safety which asks organisations to look on their people as the solution rather than problem, to count their successes on the presence of positives rather than the absence of negatives, and to look on safety as an ethical responsibility rather than a bureaucratic exercise. 

This ‘new view’ on safety is garnering lots of momentum globally, and I have been flying that flag for some time.  To be recognised by this leading Australian company as the top person in Ireland in the Safety Differently sphere was something I was very proud of.  We have since tendered for jobs together and regularly tie in with each other.

Funniest moment

Thinking I could be successful in business without being seen.   When I started first I didn’t want to even update my LinkedIn profile in case my change would come up on my connections’ news feed. I was hoping to create a very successful business without telling people what it is I was doing.  I thought the day I launched my website that everyone would be checking it out and slating me, it was pure imposter syndrome.  Wanting something very much, but not having the confidence initially to shout it from the roof tops, but more so to whisper my arrival, and almost apologetically at that.  Is it a woman thing?  Is it an Irish thing?  I don’t know. 


I remember being on a Greenshoots programme (for budding entrepreneurs, organised by the LEO and Cork County Council), and the other participants knocking a right kick out of my fear of this area.  Eventually they got through to me and I saw sense. I’m saying it is funny now, as obviously I had to change if I wanted people to know what it was I did, but it was a huge obstacle for me to overcome initially.  Now I’m vlogging, blogging, you name it.  That fear has thankfully dissipated…

Don’t worry so much about what others’ expectation of you is.  Keep focused on what it is you are trying to achieve, the rest will follow.  Keeping up appearances to ‘look the part’ can be draining.  I rented an office which I really didn’t need as I have an office space at home, this is one example of whereby I was doing something to give off a certain image rather than just focusing on the work I was doing, whether that be in my office space at home or in a rented space.

A younger you?
Alice Hamilton, founding ‘mother’ of Occupational Medicine. This woman was a true inspiration, seeking and bringing about change in policy in America relating to the prevention of occupationally related diseases, and became the first leading professor at Harvard’s medical school. Her tenacity and persistence when there wasn’t much apetite for such change in this area was really admirable... Sergeant Maurice McCabe is a leader in the true sense of the word, demonstrating resilience and tenacity repeatedly when faced with the dark and atrocious powers that be in some high ranking positions in this country. I’m a huge fan of Dr Wayne Dyer, and have recommended his movie ‘The Shift’ to many people. He was inspirational, and so authentic. Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi were great men, and demonstrated how they could lead not by having oodles of money or power, but by a burning desire for justice and equality. They are heroes in my eyes... Leaders come in many guises, and as Robin Sharma puts it, many of them don’t have titles. I have had neighbours, colleagues and friends inspire me throughout my life and I often sing their praises and tell them in person when/if possible...
anthem for business

‘Roll Back the Clouds’ by Christie Hennessy (better known as ‘I am a star’).  This is my favourite song of all time.  Many moons ago Santa brought me my 1st cd, and it was Christie’s ‘The Rehearsal’.  I absolutely loved that cd, played it a zillion times, and I became renowned locally where I grew up in Limerick for singing Christie Hennessy when out socially.  ‘Roll Back the Clouds’ is a song about resilience, even though you are doing a great job, the odds are stacked up against you: “yet critics never notice me, I’m not a star you see, and yet I give my heart to every part”.  The message in the song though is that Christie sees himself as a star, despite others perception, and that is what is most important.  An important message for all of us in there… 


In real life Christie was dyslexic, he couldn’t read or write, yet he was a genius when it came so song writing and musical compositions.  He had it tough for many years and eventually he made it big.  Even then he was very humble.  I had such affection for Christie when I was growing up, and it stays with me today.  I love everything about him, and from time to time watch his documentary ‘Messenger Boy’ on YouTube. 


The service I am offering in Upstream, with a new approach to safety, may take some time for people to grasp the benefits of such an approach.  I do believe Upstream will be seen in time as a star in the health & safety world (both in Ireland and beyond), just like Christie was recognised as a star musician...

"why" For business

It was something I felt I had to do.  While I was half afraid to take the leap, leaving the security that came with having a permanent job, I knew deep down inside I wanted to make the move from corporate life to working for myself.

As I mentioned earlier, my inspiration came when I heard Deepak Chopra speak at Pendulum Summit in January 2015.  I was really moved by what Dr Chopra had to say, about our infininite potential, and that “if you compromise yourself you’re selling yourself short”.  During a short meditation Dr Chopra asked us to tap into what our life purpose was, what were we brought into this world to do?  As obvious as night is to day, a resounding ‘to bring about positive change’ was what jumped out at me.  It sowed seeds with me and that is where it all started…

In May of that year I partook in an online course with Pat Divilly called ‘Be Your Own Hero’, and that really brought my dreams into reality. It dawned on me at this time that were I to reach the end of my days, if I didn’t take the leap afforded to me now and leave my then job, I may well end up bitter and resentful for not having taking this opportunity.  It became clear to me that I was more afraid of staying in my job of fifteen years and ending up that way than leaving and taking a gamble on the unknown.  So that was it, I met with senior management looking for a finish date, and the rest is history…

In my role previously I was involved in a very successful Behavioural Based Safety (BBS) programme during my time in Pfizer pharmaceuticals.  As BBS facilitator I was invited to present to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), and after delivering a keynote at their annual conference I received many enquiries from occupational health nurses wanting to know where they could avail of services to help them roll out a programme like ours.  The fact that our programme was an in-house grassroots approach, driven by the enthusiasm, determination and commitment of the steering committee, there was no service provider (at least not in Ireland) that could deliver our approach which was quite unique.  This got me to thinking that there was a market for such a service, and that is where I saw a potential opportunity.

It is also worth pointing that around four years ago, due to being overly commitment to my job, which meant working in excess of 60 hour weeks regularly, I ended up very sick and in a state of burnout and sheer exhaustion.  I hit a right low in my life, whereby I had to just stop for 4-5 months in order to recover.  As someone who is usually very independent and doesn’t like to ask others for help, it forced me to reach out to family and friends, and seek their support to get through that very difficult time.  I’m lucky to be here today if I’m to be totally honest, it really was a tough time… 

The whole episode led me to question everything about life.  Why was I living where I was living?  Why was I working where I was working?  Why was I investing time in relationships that didn’t yield a good return?  So many why’s…  In hindsight, I’m thankful that I went through that difficult time, I see it as a kind of a wakeup call…  As the saying goes: ‘the darkest night brings the brightest stars’.  I set out to bring about positive change, and I believe I am doing that now by providing the services I do via Upstream.

When I speak of the need to prevent injury and ill-health arising from work related stress within our organisations, as well as my academic knowledge, the experience I had at that time is invaluable now in  my current line of work, and I believe this brings extra value to the businesses I serve...

other jobs

Prior to Upstream I was in Pfizer Pharmaceuticals for 15 years, much of my time there was spent as a plant operator.  Towards the latter part of my time in Pfizer I moved into the area of Health & Safety, this was a natural progression as I went back to college to do my Certificate in Health & Safety, then my Higher Diploma in Health & Safety, and eventually a MSc in Occupational Health.


Prior to that I worked in Shannon as an operator in another pharmaceutical plant (Schwartz Pharma).  Analog Devices was where I started out my career in Limerick as a manufacturing team member.  I worked here for over 5 years and absolutely loved it.


When in Australia many moons ago I was fruit picking, waitressing, bar tending, etc.  I love the hospitality side of things actually… 


My personal and professional mission is to make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of the nation.  I foresee this happening by influencing those in a position of power to do what is ethically right, and prioritise the enforcement of legislation in the area of identifying psychosocial hazards within workplaces and putting preventative measures in place to limit the harm that may arise from them.  Our legislation sets out this requirement, yet most organisations are not compliant, and there doesn’t appear to be any sanctions or repercussions for this non-compliance.  If the same approach were taken with biological or chemical hazards it would not be acceptable, yet when it comes to psychosocial a blind eye is being turned.  This has to change.  Too many people are suffering, too many businesses are suffering, and it is costing our society an absolute fortune.  I am very passionate about highlighting the need for change in this area, I foresee good things happening, watch this space...

I am the only service provider in Ireland providing Safety Differently services, which means that your health & safety needs can get met but in a fun and enjoyable way.  I am a great peoples person, and because of so many years of experience both in front line & also the management side of health and safety, I get the frustrations people experience from their varying perspectives and can demonstrate empathy, altruism and understanding towards them.  Because of my education and experience, I have the ability to see the bigger picture and join the dots for businesses as to overall benefits and return on investment for Occupational Health & Safety services.

Unique selling point
causes or projects
passionate about

Yes, the homeless situation in Ireland at the minute is frightening.  Being someone who relatively recently started my own business, I can see how easy it could be to fall off that cliff and not be able to afford your mortgage.  What is sad is that it is working people who can’t seem to be able to make ends meet, and it reflects very badly on our society when vulture funds can buy properties for next to nothing, not contribute to the economy by means of paying VAT, and the ordinary people of this country end up homeless due to this charade being played out in front of our eyes.


Last October I slept out for Focus Ireland in the hope of raising awareness and raise some much needed funds.  I raised over €1500 on the night.  I am going to record a cd this year for Focus Ireland, which will have songs that are reflective of hope in times of despair.  Christie Hennessy’s ‘Roll Back the Clouds’ will feature, as well as Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colours’.  I am currently recruiting other friends and business people to come on board & help with this, as the bigger the media coverage the better.  So if any Women Inspire members are interested, please let me know! 

get into your industry

Educate yourself.

You can never have too much knowledge.  If you can undertake academic learning, it’s never too much weight to bear, and will open many doors to you.  Also look at recent keynotes online, recent publications that are issued.  Attend Prof Sidney Dekker’s Masterclass in Human Factors and Safety, held in Holland each year.  I attended in 2015 and it was a game changer.  Safety Differently and resilience engineering is the way safety is going, be ahead of the posse by equipping yourself with knowledge in this area.  Don’t underestimate the education you get from learning on the job, get as much experience in your particular industry as you can...


Seed support & advice.

Knock on doors, ask for advice.  I reached out to past lecturers and people that would have impressed me in prior dealings I had with them.  The outpouring of kindness and support was unreal.  People are very good, and most people I reached out to wanted to see me succeed.  Give yourself an opportunity to learn from the best of them, and provide them with an opportunity to share their knowledge, all parties will feel the better of it...


Be bold/dare to be different

If there’s a conference on and you would like to speak to one of the speakers, contact them in advance and see if you can arrange to meet them for dinner/coffee before or after the event.  I have met some people I admire most in the industry by doing this, and the insights gained are invaluable.


Reach out & connect with people that you admire, invite them to a Skype session and you would be surprised with the amount of them who will take you up on your offer.


Join IOSH & help out

Join the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (the international chartered body for health and safety) and join a committee.  I am on the South Ireland Branch Committee, and next month we are hosting a conference in Cork in ‘Resilience in Safety in times of change’ (see ) whereby we are bringing many well-respected international & Irish speakers to Cork for what promises to be a great event.  By being on these committees you can help deliver positive learnings for many Health & Safety professionals in Ireland, which in turn changes how health & safety is managed within organisations.

People can find you

Name: Marion Kiely

Phone: +353 87 6409975





Instagram: @upstreamsafety

This video gives some insights as to why I started Upstream:

Dog most definitely. I have two dogs (terriers) and their names are Rooney & Elizabeth Taylor (I’m a huge SATC fan). I love them dearly  I also have two donkeys, Reilly & Neddy…
‘Life is Beautiful’, the Italian film directed by Roberto Benigni. I didn’t know what it was about before I watched it, and was completely blown away by it, one of the most beautiful films ever made…
song to tell your story
True Colours by Cyndi Lauper. For many years I was too concerned about what others thought of me to be true to myself, whereas this has changed a lot this past five years. A lot of the time we are our own biggest critics, I certainly give myself a hard enough time for ages. I have began shifting that dial somewhat, lots of room for improvement, but great progress all the same… Even my clothes have even become more colourful…
interesting facts

1.    I’m a pescetarian.

2.    I love all things wine, and have attended many courses and wine-tasting courses over the years, as well as watched documentaries/films, etc…

3.    I came 2nd in the All-Ireland ‘puc fada’ in 2016 when I travelled to Bad Hofgestein in Austria with the Ian Dempsey’s Today FM Ski Trip.

1,000 euros!

A holiday to Siena to see the Palio horse race.  I have been there three times already, and have been taken under the wing of the B&B owners (Franco & Frances) I stayed with each time I visited.  On my first two times attending palio, Franco’s district (Torre) won the race, which was pure coincidence.  They invited me back again to see if Torre might win the ‘capoto’ (the double), as they believed I brought the luck of the Irish.  I was at dinner with all members of the Torre district on the eve of palio, where long tables lined the streets and where the jockey and manager were clapped and cheered as they made their way to the top table.  Much singing and excitement in the air, it was an unforgettable experience.  I know their anthem and just love the ceremony, excitement and drama of it all.  Were I to be given €1,000 right now, for sure I would head back to Frances Lodge and enjoy another palio (and hopefully cheer Torre to victory ;-) )

unaccompanied concert

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the Point Depot in March 1992, I remember it well, I absolutely loved it.